Lehman cared for injured on Hoosier soil
Berne businessman Claren “Clez” Lehman received what he referred to as a
“special Christmas gift from Uncle Sam” in December of 1951. Lehman received his draft notice prior to Christmas and on Jan. 4, 1952 he left for service to the country.
But at that point, things took a unique turn. Lehman traveled to Fort Custer, Michigan, but was called back to Berne due to the death of his grandfather, Peter A. Habegger.
“I was in the Army for two days and then I had a week’s furlough,” said Lehman. “When I went back to Michigan for a little bit, I was assigned to Camp Picket, VA.”
But his path to his final positioning for Army service took some interesting turns.
“I was behind everyone that I had gone into the Army with,” said Lehman. “I received my basic training at Fort Picket, but then I was transferred to Fort Sam Houston, Texas for more medical training.”
From there he went to Percy Jones Hospital in Battle Creek, and was then assigned to Camp Crowder, Missouri for re-assignment.
“A guy from Detroit and I sat there for three weeks,” said Lehman. “We got tired of KP and guard duty, so they would run us through the mess hall to get assignments.”
To his surprise, he was assigned to Camp Atterbury, close to where his (then) girlfriend, Darlene Yoder, was in nurse’s training in Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.
Lehman drove to Indianapolis from Missouri and surprised his fiancé with the news that he was going to be stationed close to her.
At Camp Atterbury, he worked in a hospital emergency room, especially pre-operation and post-operation assignments.
“Guys would come in from Korea. I would wake guys up and push them back for surgery. I was also in charge of scrubbing things in the area,” said Lehman.
“I enjoyed working with people,” said Lehman. “I was working in the emergency room one night when there was an accident on U.S. 31. One guy that came in had lost both legs.”
Lehman said that he was in orders to go to Korea, but when his time came up to be transferred, leadership at Camp Atterbury protested because they also needed Lehman’s services in that assignment.
At that point, Lehman received another stripe, and was promoted to corporal.
“I developed a new sense of compassion,” said Lehman. “Guys would come back from overseas with injured eyes, arms and legs that were messed up. I tried to give them the best care that I could.
“Because of the delays, when the time came for me to get transferred to Korea, there wasn’t enough time left for me to go,” added Lehman.
Lehman said that the whole situation was as though he simply had employment in Indianapolis. He would work five days and be off two days. During those two days, he often came back to Berne and helped his dad on the farm.
“The whole course of my journey was changed when I came back for grandpa’s funeral,” Lehman said. “The guys I went in with were all over the world. I landed in the United States and had an assignment in Indiana.”
The one thing that Lehman missed in it all was the special Bible studies he had shared with Gerald Lehman, one of the local people he had started out with.
On weekends, he could enjoy time with Darlene.
“The Lord had directed my path all along,” said Lehman. “He protected me through training.
“I learned to be more sympathetic for people who were over there and came back wounded,” continued Lehman. “I learned to realize the price that was paid to protect our freedom.”
Lehman was honorably discharged in December of 1953. When he returned to the local area, he was married to Darlene in 1954. Initially, he spent much of his time working for Yager Farms. Eventually, he worked at Home Dairy Products, then Swiss City Painters and Rainbow Construction.
“In 1975, I started working at Hitzer. I’ve been here for 37 years,” said Lehman.
Aside from employment, his love has been dedicated to his family, Berne Evangelical Church and many mission opportunities.
Lehman has traveled to the Dominican Republic on 30 occasions to build churches and other projects. He has also worked on mission projects in Africa.
A trip to Russia resulted in developing methods of heating for those near Siberia in the cold Russian climate.
“It’s been a good life,” said Lehman. “The Lord has been good. I have a wonderful family, 15 grandkids and a wonderful life. I thank the Lord and praise Him for the great opportunities He has provided along the way.”
You need to be logged in to post comments on this article.