I was living in Fairfield, Conn., when World War II broke out. I enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1942, and was soon followed by two brothers and a sister.
My brother Bernard joined the Army and fought in France and Germany. My brother Harry joined the Navy. A kamikaze pilot sunk his ship.
(I wrote this for an essay project as if someone else interviewed me, just to make the story flow.)
Second Chance - TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) survivor hopes to inspire
If you had a second chance at life, what would you do with it?
Randy Davis, a recently honorably discharged soldier of the U.S. Army Reserve, is living proof of triumphing over tragedy. He is a survivor of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that almost claimed his life. He survived being shot in the head.
Ernest Shepherd was drafted into the Army in 1943. He hadn't yet graduated high school and had spent his whole life on his father's small farm in Tennessee - twice transplanted by eminent domain - but would soon serve as a medic across the Atlantic in the European theater.
While treating wounded troops in a hospital in Liege, Belgium, Shepherd heard what sounded like a modern-day helicopter. "You knew to hunt a place to hide, find something to get behind," he said. Then, a blast. "It hit about I'd say probably 300 feet from where I was on the second floor." It was a German buzz bomb.
Military Honor & Remembrance
Jerry Quebedeaux enlisted in the Army on Sept. 29, 1959, at 17, to earn educational benefits for attending college upon separation. He met his wife Marie Prejean the night before leaving for the induction center in New Orleans. After completing basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in 1959 and advanced artillery training at Fort Sill, Okla. In February 1960, he was assigned to Fort Dix, N.J., to await transport to Bremen Harbor, Germany, upon the transport ship USS Darby.
When Roger Landry was stationed at Wheelus Air Base in Libya during the late 1950s, he and his buddies managed to stay out of serious trouble during their many adventures. But perhaps the most historically significant adventure they took was to see the recently recovered Lady Be Good.
The Lady Be Good had been one of many bomber planes sent from Libya to Naples on April 4, 1943, but it's the only one that never came back. Its nine-man crew was lost with it. With little fuel left, the men decided to bail out.
Varying accounts, however, make the plane itself seem doomed from the start.
Bob Barfield of Philadelphia joined the army at age 17 in 1951. After basic training, he completed Airborne Jump School and was sent to the front lines of Korea with the 5th RCT in the spring of 1952.
Still 17, Barfield was shot through the right shoulder. After recuperating from his wound he requested and received a transfer again to a front line unit and was sent to Co. "F" 7th Infantry Regiment 3rd Infantry Division. On June 14, 1953, Barfield and his company were involved in a bloody hand-to-hand battle for an outpost called the "Boomerang," a battle that lasted about five hours.
I would like to speak of the living veterans who still hold memories of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietmam War and all those younger veterans of the wars in the Middle East, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Every war is different, but all the suffering and pain is the same. They are all about young men and women willing to give part of their lives for America.
Many of these young people were not able to vote before they entered the military. Many never came home to enjoy the joy of parenthood and to hold their child in their arms. How lucky that some of us had that gift.
The Infantry had headed out to sea several times in a Higgins Landing Craft near the coastal town of Barnstable, England, near Plymouth. A sandy seashore beach was there, similar to what we might find on the shores of France. We had mortars aboard, shooting to land on shore in England, to practice for entry on enemy territory. Again and again we fired mortars.
We were orienting ourselves to be prepared. The date, we knew, was coming. We bivouacked among the trees of the country fields. Tents kept off the cold winter sleet and rain. April was coming.
Marilyn Monroe was in Korea as part of the USO entertainment during the Korean War. Army veteran Luis Miranda remembers her visit as an inspiration to soldiers. When her helicopter touched down and she stepped on to the base, the whole atmosphere changed.
"It was a surprise to us and the military service because we were not expecting her," Miranda said. "And after all, she was a very important person in the United States." She would soon marry Joe DiMaggio, he said.
It wasn't just that she was blonde, buxom, beautiful. Everyone knew that.
Pvt. Arnold Rosco Collins is my great-grandfather. He served briefly during World War I and World War II. He never saw combat, but like so many other Americans of his generation, he reported for duty when his nation called.
The Military History of Arnold Roscoe Collins, a Veteran of World War I and World War II: 7 November 1918 to 18 December 1918, and 27 October 1942 to 15 April 1943
Arnold Roscoe Collins was born on 25 April 1897 in Overton County, Tenn., to William and Jane Norrod Collins. He grew up in and around Monterey, Tenn.
LTC (R) Arnold Collins Jr. is my grandfather on my mother's side. I was blessed to grow up around him and get to know him. He told me a few war stories and gave me some good advice. Using his DD 214 and many other orders and papers I received when he died, I was able to piece together his career in the Armed Forces.
Newton Willard Young is my grandfather. I spent many years researching and tracking down information on his service in World War I as well as information about his unit. As a veteran and grandson, I really wanted to know what he did and where he served. Like most families, everyone had a story about what Grandpa did. Sadly, I did not, because my grandfather died when I was 3. All I knew of him growing up was that he served in the war and did not talk about it. In my grandmother's house as a child, I saw a picture of him in uniform. I had no idea what the badges meant at the time.
In March 1964, while working at Grid Services section, there was a request from Col. Black Todo: something for the Skull Valley Indians, who had no toilets or lights and lived on dirt floors. My section laid a cable from the power station to the village and used our surplus tent lights to illuminate each hut. We then put in a septic system separate from the Indian agent's house, who had his own system and refused to improve the village.
The tribal chief who worked in our motor pool was so pleased, the colonel and us had fresh elk bagged by the chief.
I was 17 when I joined the Army Reserve. I went to Fort Polk, La., for basic training and spent six months there.
In November 1963, I re-enlisted in the regular Army and was at Fort Dix, N.J., getting ready to be shipped to Germany when President Kennedy was killed. My MOS was 102, infantry heavy weapons.
In Germany I was with the 24th Infantry Division in Augsburg, Germany. Our unit was sent to West Berlin for three months' assignment, which was a great experience for me during the Cold War years of 1964-1965.
In 1965 I relisted again and became a military policeman in the 24th MP Co.
(In the photo above, Charles Mowbray talks with Leanna Morris, who helped the World War II veteran receive his medals. Photo by Tracy Sahler/Wicomico County Public Schools)
For Charles Mowbray, deciding to share his old battle tales cracked opened history for a group of precocious grade school children attempting to preserve veterans’ stories. For him, helping a friend’s daughters with a school project meant he finally got the recognition he had earned nearly seven decades prior.
The many years before, Mowbray kept all the memories to himself.
Tom Stratos joined the Army in 1943 and was discharged on April 18, 1946. Though he immediately signed up for the active reserves, with his final discharge in 1952, April 18 was the date he would leave his friend Ethel Turlis - seemingly forever.
Stratos was the son of Greek immigrants, and Tacoma, Wash., near where he'd been stationed at Fort Lewis, boasted a large Greek community. A family friend from boyhood, his friendship with Ethel had grown during his time in service.
But time went on. He married his wife Helen and had a family.
Leroy Blessing enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1950, when he was 17. He hadn't yet completed high school.
"What was I like as a 17-year-old? A rambunctious kid," Blessing said. "I felt like I wasn’t getting the excitement that I needed in high school. The Marines were the best of all the outfits and I wanted to be the best, so I went down and signed up."
The decision he made as a teenager led to a 20-year career in the military, including tours of duty in Korea and Vietnam.
After Korea, he met his wife Edna on a blind date. They were married for 50 years.
Upon graduating from Northeastern University with a BSCE in 1960, I immediately lost my temporary draft deferment, joined a local U.S. Army Reserve Unit and was assigned to heavy weapons.
A few days before my six-month active duty training obligation was to end at Fort Jackson, S.C., President John F. Kennedy put my unit on alert. It was April 1961, and we had no idea why. But we got our gear together and waited. It was canceled within a few days, to our relief.
In 1966, I was assigned to a new engineer battalion that was being formed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California. We were deployed to Chu Lai, Vietnam. I spent 13 bloody months in country, returned to the United States in 1967 and was honorably discharged as a sergeant E-5 in 1968. That year, I joined the Indianapolis Police Department, where I worked for 32 years.
As a member of the Strategic Air Command during the 1950s, I was assigned to a B-36 bomber crew as an electronic counter-measures specialist. The B-36 “Peacemaker” is one of the largest American warplanes ever built. Our mission was to be prepared at all times to counter communist aggression.
On one mission, we had complete the run-up of all the engines. We made our final turn to line up on the runway. Once we were in the air and had retracted the landing gear, I was tasked with searching the bomb bay area, concerned with possible hydraulic leaks or gas fumes.