By Mark Ambrogi
Alex Rearick was just about to turn 18 in December 1943 when he received a key piece of advice from his cousin.
His cousin, a lieutenant in the Army infantry, told him not to wait to be drafted but enlist in the Navy or Army Air Corps.
“Otherwise you are going to be wet and cold, tired and hungry for eight weeks at a time in the infantry,” said Rearick, who has lived in Fishers for nearly 20 years after spending 25-plus years in Carmel. “Thank God I had a cousin who was smarter.”
So to avoid being drafted Rearick left Winamac (Ind.) High School at Christmas break of his senior year to enlist in the Air Corps.
It proved to be the right decision. Rearick, who participated in 26 combat missions in the Pacific, will be honored as one of several World War II veterans will who will serve as Grand Marshals of the CarmelFest parade on July 4.
Rearick, now 89, served as the radar operator on the B-29 bomber flights on the 505th Bombardment Group, 484th Squadron.
Rearick, who became a sergeant, wanted to be aerial gunner and shoot the Japanese planes down. But there were too many gunners.
“I was a substitute gunner,” he said. “I got to the gunner only once. By the time I got there after the tail gunner got wounded, there wasn’t anything left (to the weapon) they had shot it all up. So I never got to fire a shot in anger.”
Rearick credits his pilot, Capt. John Corrick, with his survival. In fact, he named his oldest son John after him.
“I flew with a couple of other crews and I never felt quite as safe as when I was with John Corrick. He’s the only reason I got all these medals,” Rearick said. “We had really good mechanics, too, they were the wind under our wings.”
Following the war, Rearick finished his last semester of high school at age 20.
“First the superintendent called me in his office and said ‘I want you to swear on a stack of bibles that you won’t teach any of these young people any bad habits you might have picked up in the military,’” Rearick said.
Rearick went to Butler University for one year long enough to meet his future wife and then went to jewelry school in Peoria.
“How I ended up in the insurance business for 36 years I don’t know,” said Rearick, who served as a safety engineer, advising on insurance viability.
Rearick and his late wife Nancy, who died from cancer in 1999, have three children. John lives in Austin, Texas. His daughter, Pam, lives about four miles away from her father in Indianapolis and youngest, Doug, lives in Noblesville.
Rearick will be accompanied at the parade by his friend, Becky Uhl, 72.
“I invested for a number of years and then I met Becky and now I’m de-vesting because we’re traveling too much,” Rearick said.