The tale of local veteran John Butz

Atascadero wouldn’t be the same without John Butz and his wife, Barbie. The two have become staples in North County, and at the beginning of October, ninety-year-old John, who is a Korean War veteran, was invited on an Honor Flight with four of his family members, including all three of his sons.

John’s military career started when he was drafted into the Army at the end of the Korean War, taking from his home in Ohio, three states, over to Missouri. 

“My military career started in 1953. The Korean War was from 1950 to 1953, and I was drafted in 1953. The [Korean] Armistice [Agreement] was signed in July of 53, so I was sent to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for my basic training and stayed there for all my military career,” said John.


With construction experience from before he was drafted, it only made sense that John would end up as an Army Engineer, and he spent a good portion of his time building things on base. In addition, John was a company clerk while he was in basic training because he knew how to type. During his two years in the military, he was elevated from platoon leader to private to corporal before receiving an honorable discharge.

“When I left in May of 1955, I had two years of National Guard duty. But I was fully released from the Army in May of 1955,” he continued.

While in the Army, John also ended up over at Fort Belvoir in Virginia to get some extra schooling under his belt. He added that he never ended up using said schooling after he left.

“I got out [of the Army] in May. In June, we left Ohio for California. Made a stop in Pasadena, where my mother’s sister and her family were. Then made another stop in Santa Barbara and stayed there until 1977,” John said of his move to California.

In Santa Barbara, John met Barbie through his sister, Beverly, when they were both in the same sorority.

“We met in Santa Barbara. My sister, I have one sister, no brothers. Barbie was at UCSB [University of Santa Barbara], and that’s where my sister was, and she was affiliated with the Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority. That’s how I got to meet Barbie. I’ve followed her around since 1955,” John said with a smile.

Once again, it was John’s construction background that landed him in the right place at the right time. He and his friends were asked by Beverly to help build the Kappa Alpha Theta float for UCSB’s Homecoming Parade, and the rest is history.

The Butz’s have lived in Atascadero ever since they left Santa Barbara, and they have lived on the same property they bought in 1985. Together, they have three sons, Doug, David, and Daniel, 12 grandchildren, and a total of 22 great-grandkids.

John, along with his sons, Doug, David, and Daniel, and daughter-in-law Michele, left on October 2 for John’s honor flight, where veterans explore war memorials on the East Coast. The Honor Flight was a charter plane full of veterans from the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and every single military branch was represented.

“There were about 100 veterans. Only nine from Korea because we’re getting older, as you know,” stated John.

John stated that out of every amazing thing the group got to do, his favorite was when he and his sons were able to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier together. 

“We watched the complete Change of the Guard, which is absolutely awesome. The weather was beautiful, with not much humidity, which I was amazed about. That ceremony there was overlooking the capitol.” John shared. 

“The most awesome thing was after the Changing of the Guard, they had a ceremony that changes the wreath of the day. They picked out four Korean Veterans, and I was one of them to walk up and to be right in front of the wreath stand. They brought out the wreath of the day, and there was a short, quick ceremony before the wreath placement of that wreath. The four guards, who will be Korean Veterans, were able to be handed that wreath and then place that wreath on the holder. And then the ceremony is a flag salute and playing taps for that exchange and then return to our area.”

He added that he discovered he would be part of the ceremony about five minutes before it started.

During the trip, the Butz family, as well as the rest of the Honor Flight crew, were taken to see the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial, the World War II Veterans Memorial, and the Current Veterans Memorial. To finish off the trip, they headed to the Naval Training Station, Annapolis, just in time for the flag-raising ceremony.

While on the trip, John’s oldest son, Doug, was his guardian, and David and Daniel also helped two of the other Korean War vets while on the flight. 

“We were known as the Butz Group if you will,” John said with a gleam in his eye.

John encourages every veteran to take an honor flight if possible. 

“Everything we did. Everything we saw was just, I mean, some of it’s just hard to describe. It’s so awesome when you think about the history of this country and how lucky we are,” he stated.

The Honor Flight returned on Wednesday, October 4, to hundreds of people, including Vandenberg Space Force Base soldiers, chanting “Welcome home” and waving American flags, thanking them for their service.


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