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One brother recalls story of seven WWII vets from his family

One brother recalls story of seven WWII vets from his family
Back row (L to R): Unknown, Richard Reuss, Roy Roos, Melvin Reuss, Roy Akey Front row (L to R): Alfred Reuss, Jr., Norman Reuss, Alfred Reuss, Sr. (father), Henry Reuss, Vernon Reuss

Richard Reuss was the youngest of his family to be drafted during World War II. He had five brothers and a brother-in-law who all had been taken before him.

His brother Norman served in the Army Tank Corps, Vernon was a paratrooper who wound up in Japan and Melvin was in the Air Corps as a radioman. Their brother-in-law, Roy Roos, was in the Air Corps, "caught" by the lottery before America officially entered the war.

His oldest brother, Alfred, Jr., drove a gasoline supply truck and was attached to Gen. George Patton’s Third Army. His brother Henry was in Patton’s Third Army on a tank destroyer. Across the world, they reunited.

"Henry and Alfred crossed paths after the Battle of the Bulge when Patton headed to Germany. Alfred pulled up in the tanker and was filling Henry’s tank destroyer when they met. That was really something."

The Reuss brothers' mother had died young, in 1927, so the family grew up with their father, Alfred, Sr., at the helm, and their grandmother's help. Alfred, Sr. ran a grocery store in their hometown of Blue Island, Ill. As Richard's brothers were called to serve, he watched the number of stars on the flag that hung in their window grow. He looked out for the bicycle messenger.

"You always wondered whose house he was going to because he always had a telegram saying something."

He brought the bad news.

"You were wounded, you were killed, you were missing in action."

Still, the bicycle messenger didn't knock on their door. His brothers stayed out of harm's way.

Richard kept up with current events.

"I read a lot. I was a paperboy, and I delivered the Chicago Daily News and so the day-by-day of the war I read because I was interested in it.

"Then all of a sudden here it came and it was, 'You have been selected ...' That was the way the letter started out, and it was signed by President Roosevelt. So you reported to the post office at a certain time and off you went to downtown Chicago."

He was called to serve in the infantry in January 1945 but never made it overseas. The war ended later that year.

"It felt like it was your obligation not to yourself, not to your family, but to your country," Richard said. "And the most surprising thing was everybody came home, nobody had been hurt."

After the war, all the Reusses and one Roos came back home to Blue Island. There, a family friend persuaded every one of them - all seven - to join the American Legion Post 50.

"Roy Akey was the chemistry teacher. He was more of a friend than just a teacher at the high school. He knew all of us boys - we all went there and I think he just probably made a couple telephone calls and we all got together, and we did it."

The Reuss family had been a tight-knit family, Richard said. This photo of them at the American Legion illustrates that closeness, with a proud father at its center.

But as time went on, they married off and some moved farther away. Vernon's now in Stockbridge, Mass. Norman became a banker in Grand Rapids, Mich.

After his military service, Richard married his wife, Mary, only four months after meeting her at a friend's dinner.

"I looked across the table and I said, 'That’s the love of my life.'"

Richard worked in the sporting goods business with Roy before becoming a salesman. He and Mary had a family and lived in the same house in Blue Island for 50 years, before moving to Glenview to be closer to their daughter.

Richard, 87, Vernon, 91, and Henry, 94, are still alive. Richard still flies an American flag from his apartment balcony, though he needs to replace its holder, which broke in a windstorm.

"I wish I had the flag that they flew from the window that had six stars for the boys and the seventh star for the brother-in-law but I don’t know whatever happened to that."

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Anonymous

January 10, 2014 - 12:48am

Thank God for some of the responses I've read! All is not lost!

Gene F. Cooper,GySgt/USMC

January 10, 2014 - 12:42am

I don't cry very often but, while reading this article and the thoughts I had after, caused me to. It took me a time to learn to handle my finances, applying and waiting on disability from my three tours of duty in southeast Asia during Vietnam, which took 34 years to receive. Penny for penny, dollar for dollar, our government should be ashame! There should not be one homeless American or hungry American on the streets of this Nation!!!!!!! Although we as a Nation had to grow out of our indifferences to one another, to continue as such, will soon, if it has not done so already, destroy our Nation. I can understand clearly such things (attitudes)because as a Boy of 9 to 12 years of age I lived on the streets and in abandoned houses in the wintertime with my mother and three sisters. The problems are simple to solve! But greed and the fear of a possibility of the breakdown and redefinement of ethnology! As long as the masses can be occupied with the concerns of food water and shelter, the need for communal existence becomes far distant of thought. The social wheel turns and stops on subjects unrelated and the decay of the society in it's humanity continues to die, even while their technical advantages increase. To be absolutely frank,we are and have been moving into the age where what we have called advanced technology, will be running us and not us running our environment. At this point now, the only trained survivors are Military. When I joined the Marine Corps, I was trained and became Force Recon/combat patrol leader. Right now, take away computers, television, microwave, and our sky monitors and this nation would be in absolute darkness and confusion! The electromagnetic spectrum does not belong to us!

William H. Cass

January 9, 2014 - 9:57pm

God bless them all and pray that the US government understands that because of men like these we are free today! When they cut military benefits, who benefits?

Shirley Frederick

January 9, 2014 - 9:46pm

Thank you and God be with you to everyone of our veterans and service men and women. Now if we could get so many of our citizens to at least be patriotic and be thankful for the country we live in instead of working so hard to tear it down. Stand up and accept the responsibilities that go along with each and every freedom that we have.

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