Korean War veterans to serve as grand marshals at CarmelFest parade

Melvin Butler
Melvin Butler

By Desiree Williams

Korean War veterans from across Indiana will gather to lead the 2017 CarmelFest parade as a Grand Marshal unit.

Veterans will ride in a classic car with poster-sized versions of their military photo carried by a family member, friend or volunteer.

“With the Korean (War) veterans and any of the military personnel we have in the parade, it’s something for them to finally get the recognition that they may not have received when they returned home,” said Bec Hunter, co-director of the parade.

Cpl. Melvin Butler, who grew up in Lawrence but now lives in Fishers, will be part of the Grand Marshal unit this year. Butler joined the army at age 18 in 1949.

On February 11, 1951, Butler and two other men were taken as prisoners of war. The U.S. forces were supporting the South Korean army in Hoengsong, South Korea when Chinese forces drove through the first line of defense. Butler said the Chinese soldiers released hand grenades and everyone fled quickly, leaving every man to fend for himself. He called the area “Massacre Valley.”

Butler ended up with a group of 16 men that escaped through the mountains and stayed behind enemy lines for nearly three days. He was captured during the last of three ambushes along the way. He said they were kept for some time before the captors decided to execute them. Butler was shot in the back and knocked to the ground, but the bullet didn’t kill him.

He played dead until the captors left and then crawled to a foxhole where he stayed, searching for food and water for 19 days in 30-below zero weather.

“I was in that foxhole and I told God, ‘I’m just weak and tired and I’ve lost a lot of blood. I just want to lay here and die,’” Butler said. “It wasn’t much longer after I said that prayer that I heard a lot of firing and shooting going on and I finally heard some American voices.”

Melvin Butler’s military photo from 1949. (Submitted photo)
Melvin Butler’s military photo from 1949. (Submitted photo)

Butler was transferred between hospitals for months before remaining at a hospital in Battle Creek, Mich., for six months. He received a medical discharge from the military.

He returned to Indiana in August of 1951. He worked for RCA for 10 years and then spent 30 years working in avionics for the U.S. Navy.

Butler said the Korean War soldiers are often forgotten, so he is looking forward to the parade and celebration.

“I think it’s a really nice thing that they have this for us,” he said. “And it’s not just for us, but it’s for all soldiers. It’s for those that never made it back. That’s who the real heroes are.”

Before the parade, the Grand Marshal unit will enjoy a private breakfast hosted at Centier Bank on Carmel Drive with food provided by CarmelFest. The veterans will have time to socialize.

“It is a perfect location to make the veterans feel comfortable while waiting to proceed to line up, and they won’t need to go very far or sit in the sun too long while waiting for the 10:30 a.m. parade start time,” Hunter said.

Hunter also organizes the grand finale parade entry that features more than 200 active duty soldiers and veterans from all branches of the military.