PITTSBURGH -- Korean War veteran Ed Portka, 90, was honored along with his stepson Monday night as the Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Cincinnati Bengals on national television.
Former Maj. David Reeser, who commanded an Army diving company in Europe 28 years ago, accompanied his stepfather, a former first lieutenant, onto the field for the Steelers' "Salute Our Heroes" recognition during a short break following the third quarter of the game.
"I'm excited about it," Portka said about his upcoming recognition, just before the game, offering that he was "looking forward to it," but a little hesitant.
Portka served as a platoon leader in an engineer unit under the 1st Cavalry Division in Korea. He was responsible for breaching minefields and other obstacles during offensive operations and installing minefields to protect U.S. defensive positions.
"We did a lot of dirty work," Portka said. "It was specialized work."
He said every chance they got, they detonated mines by firing their M-1 rifles at them rather than risking lives.
Portka served in Korea from 1952-53. One of his memories was of meeting Gen. Matthew Ridgway, 8th Army commander, during a battlefield circulation, just after Portka's platoon finished clearing a minefield near Pusan, Korea.
"He was down-to-earth," Portka said of Ridgway.
The Korean War armistice agreement was signed on Portka's 24th birthday, July 27, 1953, just before he redeployed home. He said it was quite a birthday present.
After the war, Portka was an architectural draftsman with George M. Ewing Company in Washington, D.C. He later managed the firm's Philadelphia office and was the project manager for the design of Veterans Stadium, home of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Reeser was stationed in Europe in the early 1990s, where he served as a platoon Leader and then as commander of a diving detachment. After leaving the military, he founded an engineering firm, Infrastructure Engineers, that performs underwater bridge inspections.
Reeser now lives in Florida and his stepfather in Atlanta, but said he returns to Pittsburgh every chance he gets to take his stepfather to Steeler games.
At the end of their recognition on the field, both veterans aggressively waved Pittsburgh Steeler "terrible towels." The Steelers beat the Bengals 27-3.