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  All in the Family  
  This Winter Springs family has proudly served their country through the generations.  
  Irvin M. Sandbrink was honored for his service during World War II and the Korean War.  

By Kimberly Kimmel

Early on a Monday evening in May, folks gathered at the town hall in Winter Springs to honor a special member of their community. Because of his dedicated service in World War II and the Korean War, Irvin M. Sandbrink was awarded a medal.
He graciously and humbly accepted from his wheelchair. “Thank you,” he said, feeling a bit overwhelmed. He never expected there would be a ceremony or any awards at this stage of his life.
“Dad has received many letters of appreciation from the community and the family,” daughter Connie Gatlin says. She attended the small ceremony with her father. Many people have told him over the years what his service to their country has meant to them.
Not a talkative man, Sandbrink chose to quietly accept the accolades. After all, he knows the treacherous road he's had to walk on his path toward the recognition for his patriotism.
Many parts of Sandbrink's life haven't been easy. Growing up in Dillsboro, Indiana, both of his parents died when he was just 13 years old; his mom of a burst appendix. “My dad's parents had died during the Great Depression. The family ran a 350-acre farm which was lost after their death. All three of the sons tried to keep it going but couldn't,” Gatlin says.
The result was that Sandbrink and his two brothers ended up in the war. “My brothers Willard and Lawrence were drafted into the Army. I enlisted. I remember December 7, 1941 vividly. It was different then. The emphasis was on patriotism,” Sandbrink says. Both of his sisters worked in the factories doing the men's jobs while they were away fighting.
From 1945 – 1947, Sandbrink served as an aviation machinist in the Naval Air Corp. His years of service took him to San Diego, California, Tennessee, Guam and the Philippines.
One lasting memory during World War II was surviving two typhoons while being on an LST, or small, flat bottom ship. “I don't want to do that again. Returning to the states after being in the Philippines, I was never so thankful for my safe return,” Sandbrink says. Another memory Sandbrink has is of losing a co-worker. “A man I worked with was sweeping a paint room with a broom that wasn't fire resistant and it ignited the room. That would not have happened today,” Sandbrink says.
In the Korean War, he served from 1950 – 1952 and was stationed in Millington, Tenn. “During the Korean War my second child was born. My family stayed back in Indiana most of that time. They had to do without me and I missed them terribly,” Sandbrink says.

Family Honor
Other family members have grown up with the solid patriotism and dedication that Sandbrink has bestowed on his family. His grandson, Ben Freeborn, has served in the military since 2000. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany. “I’m currently a major, my specific job title is F-16 weapons instructor pilot,” Freeborn says.
Early memories for Freeborn include wanting to fly fighter planes. “Grandpa Irv had photo albums of his time in the Pacific that I'd look through whenever we visited. It seemed like such an irresistible, real life adventure. When I grew up, the idea of service to something larger than myself added to the draw,” says Freeborn.
Freeborn loved hearing the stories his granddad would sometimes share of his war adventures. “The typhoon that was waiting for him; I'm just amazed at what he and his generation of warriors considered 'all in a day’s work.'” Freeborn says.
Sandbrink is proud of all the family members who have served their country. “My son Donald Irvin Sandbrink served in the Naval Reserve,” Sandbrink says. “My grandson was commissioned out of college in the Air Force. I'm very proud of all their humble, self sacrificing service to our country. I am especially humbled by my grandson’s achievements especially his spirit award and the top awards he received while in his graduating class.”

Honor Flight 
Recently, Sandbrink was able to participate in Honor Flight, an organization that helps transport veterans to Washington DC to see the World World II memorial. “My son-in-law helped me get around with my wheelchair all day. He was my guardian. He worked as a World War II pilot and also served in the Philippines. My great grandchildren and grandson and his wife, my niece and her husband met us at the memorial. What fun to see their smiling faces,” Sandbrink says.

Having never seen the World War II memorial or know what to expect from an Honor Flight, he was tremendously humbled. “I never knew so many people cared about us. As I stepped off the plane in Sanford on Saturday April 26 on a red carpet, 200 people cheered and thanked us for our service. A band played patriotic music. I never expected anything like that,” Sandbrink says.
Now choking back tears at the ceremony at the Town Hall, Sandbrink doesn't regret a single minute that brought him to this shining moment. “Working together to serve our country strengthened our faith in ourselves and our Lord,” Sandbrink says.

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