With this week’s KX Summer Road Trip to Mandan, we met a man who is leading the Independence Day parade on Sunday — a veteran who, at one point, had his own freedom taken from him.

It was 1950 when Vernon Huber joined the United States Air Force. He was assigned in January 1951 to the Korean War.

“I flew combat missions. I was on my 44th combat mission when I was hit by ground fire coming off a bombing run,” explained Huber.

His F-84E was hit in the left wing and while trying to retreat back to the base, the wing collapsed.

As the plane began to spiral, Huber says he had no choice but to eject. While waiting to be picked up, he was captured.

“I took my radio and I threw it against the tree hoping it would break. And around the hill came three North Korean soldiers and aimed their rifles at me and told me to lie down, get down. And they covered me with pine balls,” shared Huber.

During his time in captivity, Huber was first put in a cave then transferred to a prisoner of war camp, and finally taken into custody by China.

He says during this time he slept on rice mats, was forced to do hard labor and was interrogated on multiple occasions.

“He stood over the top of me and asked me again the questions and I said I don’t know. And every time I said it he’d knock me over down on the other side. And I’d get up and he’d come over on the other side when I’d say I didn’t know. He did this about four, five times. And finally, he picked up his pistol and he took it and put it to the back of my head and he said I ask you one more time…and I said I don’t know,” shared Huber.

Huber spent 16 months as a prisoner of war until one day, a representative came in and read a document declaring the war over.

“We went inside of the building and he came and said to some of us asking, ‘Well aren’t you pleased that the war’s over? Aren’t you pleased?’ Nobody said anything to him. Well finally, they left and we started jumping around and hugging each other. And we were very happy to hear it,” shared Huber.

Huber spent 25 years in the Air Force before retiring.

He says serving for the first time as a grand marshal is a complete honor.

“I was supposed to be it last year and of course the parade was canceled. And again, as I said in the beginning to you, when I refused to do the one when I came back from Korea to have a parade down Main Street, I regretted that. So I felt honored to be doing it,” explained Huber.

Huber is 92 years old and has had a very full life.

After retiring from the service, he went on to do real estate, travel the world with his wife and wrote a book for his family and friends.