Henry Baranski traveled a long road to be in Atlantic City in 1950, eligible for the draft and deployment to Korea.
Baranksi, 91, of Linwood, was born in Zyrardow, Poland, in 1928. He turned 11 during the German invasion of his homeland and the start of World War II.
His father was sent to the Treblinka concentration camp where he was killed. Baranski, his mother and his sister were sent to a labor camp in Germany.
After the three of them were liberated at the end of the war, his mother and sister stayed on in Germany, and Baranski made his way to north Philadelphia, where a maternal aunt was living.
“I had 25 cents in my pocket when I got off the boat,” Baranski said.
From Philadelphia, a friend suggested they move to Atlantic City where there were plenty of jobs — and girls — in the summer. Baranski got a job as a busboy at the Shelburne Hotel at Michigan Avenue and the Boardwalk, where Bally’s Wild, Wild West Casino now stands.
Baranski was 21 but not yet a citizen when North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. Three days later, he was drafted.
“I went gladly,” Baranski said.
He was sent to Fort Polk in Louisiana.
“I was a fast learner and pretty good with technical (things),” Baranski said, so they trained him in artillery communications.
Baranski deployed with the 8th Army, IX Corps. His job was to set up communication between eight-inch howitzer batteries and headquarters.
He doesn’t have much to say about Korea.
“Every day was OK for me because I had already been in the 1939 war (World War II), and I knew when it was over I would go home again,” he said.
Asked what the hardest part was, Baranski said, “trying to stay alive.”
“You could never go outside. You couldn’t leave the bunker. You couldn’t use the bathroom. The main objective was to say alive so you could go back home to your loved ones.”
Baranski did make it home three years and a month after he entered the Army. He returned to Atlantic City a corporal and a veteran.
He started training for his electrician’s certification, became a citizen and got a job at Coast Electrical.
He met his wife, Marilyn, at a dance and eventually they were married at St. Michael’s in Atlantic City.
Marilyn Baranski worked her way up the ranks at what started as Anchor Savings and after several changes in ownership is now OceanFirst. She was senior vice president when she retired.
Henry Baranski went to work for Atlantic City Medical Center (now AtlantiCare). He was there 35 years, ending his tenure as director of plant operations/engineering. He helped with the planning of the Mainland campus.
The Baranskis raised three daughters. The eldest directs physical therapy at AtlantiCare. One’s a retired second-grade teacher. The youngest teaches at Villanova University.
Marilyn Baranski died in February at 84. They were married 63 years. Henry Baranski stayed involved with the military through the VFW and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. He was commander of the Ventnor VFW post for eight years.
“We used to go to the Vineland VA (veterans home) two to three times a month to take things to the vets,” Baranski said.
On a recent blustery day, the American flag in the Baranskis’ front yard whipped thanks to the high winds of a dying nor’easter. Baranski put his coat and hat on to go outside and bring in the flag for safe keeping.
He wondered out loud why more people don’t fly flags. He says he’s the only person on his street to display one.
“Some people don’t know how lucky they are,” Baranski said.