With a low draft number of 43, Robert Rodenhouse of Venice, Fla. knew he was about to be drafted in 1970 during the middle of the Vietnam War. So he volunteered for the Army. After basic at For Knox, Ky. he decided there must be a better job in the Army than gun toter in…
Warren Tuggle of Punta and his family were run out of Biloxi, Miss. 65 years ago by the Ku Klux Klan. The Tuggle family was black and Warren was a 17-year-old high school graduate in 1947 when they left town.
Returning to Vietnam was no sentimental journey for Bob Ruybal after 50 years.
Ed Garrick of Port Charlotte graduated from high school in time to got into the last few months of the Korean War. After boot camp he arrived off the coast of Inchon, North Korea and was taken ashore in landing craft in the middle of a snow storm.
Randy Laney of Englewood flew helicopters for 45 years both in the Army and as a commercial chopper pilot after he was discharged.
With 10 weeks of Combat Medic Training under his belt 19-year-old Marc Folden of Venice flew into Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam aboard a commercial jet in April 1968 and joined the 1st Cavalry Division, the largest Army unit in the field, in the A Shau Valley as a combat medic with Aco-Company, 5th Battalion, 7th…
Specialist-3rd Class Marvin Kelly of North Port was listed as assistant gunner on a 280 millimeter atomic cannon. It was the biggest and baddest artillery piece the U.S. Army every produced during the “Cold War” of the 1950s.
Just by chance Bill Hartstein of Alameda Isles mobile home park in Englewood joined the U.S. Army’s Security Service at the close of the Korean War In the 1953 and nailed down a career in electronics for life.
The year after Carl Fisher of Fantasy Island Condominiums on Manasota Key graduated from high school in 1966 he was drafted and sent to Vietnam as a private and a member of the 577th Combat Engineers.
Pfc. Merritt Dayton of Venice was one of the lucky ones who escaped the SS Leopoldville disaster off the coast of France on Christmas Eve 1944. The Leopoldville was a Belgium troop transport crammed full of 2,223 soldiers from the U.S. 66th Infantry Division sailing from England to France to take part in the “Battle…
Chief Warrant Officer-2 Mike Ware of Venice was a “Kingsmen” in Vietnam. He was a Huey helicopter pilot in ’68 who flew 101st Airborne Division assault troops into battle throughout that war-torn country. The “Kingsmen” is what they called themselves.
Jim Brand of Ventura Lakes mobile home park south of Punta Gorda, developed a hernia in basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. during World War II and missed the “D-Day Invasion.”
In May 1950 John Fanning of Warm Mineral Springs joined the Connecticut National Guard because it was where the socially-connected met to party. A month later, in June, the 21-year-old Army recruit learned his Guard unit provided more than good times. He marched off to war in Southeast Asia when his outfit was federalized shortly…
Lowell Garrett of El Jobean, Fla. had a front row seat for the final blast of “Dooms Day on Wheels”, the 280 millimeter atomic cannon fired at the government’s Nevada test site during the Korean War in 1953. He and the other 200 members of his 59th Field Artillery Battalion that operated the gun were…
Ed Carr was an 18-year-old rifle toter in L-Company, 303rd Infantry Regiment, 97th Division of Gen. George S. Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe during World War II. He now lives in ‘Village on the Isle’ condominiums in Venice.
When he flew into Tan Son Nhut Airbase near Saigon, South Vietnam in 1968 Sp.-3 Jim Miele was 19 and thought he was invincible. He began his 14 months in country as a demolition expert, then volunteered to be a “tunnel rat,” and finally parachuted out of airplanes with Army Rangers on special operation missions.
Shortly after Joe Battaglia was drafted into the Army in November 1951, he found himself in a bunker a few hundred feet behind the “Main Line of Resistance,” the front line, along the 38th Parallel separating North and South where the fighting was taking place during the Korean War.
John Coine of Burnt Store Isles was a former private first class and a rifleman in the 78th Infantry Division that arrived in Europe just in time for the “Battle of the Bulge” in December 1944. It was the biggest battle on the Western Front that Americans took part in.
Dick Ruppert of Venice, Fla. was a member of the 145th Army Airways Communication Squadron. His unit provided technical ground support for a directional flight system used by the Army Air Corp to vector bombers and fighters to Japanese targets in the Pacific in World War II.
One-hundred-three-year-old retired Air Force Lt. Col. Grace Chicken, who lives at South Port Square in Port Charlotte, Fla., was already a registered nurse when she signed up for the Army Air Corps during the early part of World War II.
Former 1st Lt. Ken Donihue of Hampshire House apartments in Port Charlotte arrived in Vietnam a few weeks after the “Tet Offensive.” He flew into the country in March of 1968, as a member of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division—”The Screaming Eagles.”
John Robson of Englewood, Fla. joined the Air Force at 18, in 1966. After basic he was trained to be a jet engine mechanic and was sent to an air force base in Tuy Hoa, South Vietnam in 1967. He worked on the engine of a squadron of F-100 Super Sabre fighter-bombers over there.
At 91 Charles Carter of Englewood, Fla. was old enough to enlist in the Army and serve with the 69th Infantry Division that fought its way across Europe during the closing months of World War II.
When Warren Sharp went to Vietnam in 1965 the first time as a young captain serving as an advisor to a South Vietnam combat engineering battalion he quickly learned there was more to war than killing the enemy. There were in-country civilians who needed his help just as urgently.
In 1948 President Harry Truman passed a law integrating the U.S. military. Three years later Joe Dinish in Kings’ Gate Subdivision, Port Charlotte, Fla. was drafted into the Army out of high school and was eventually sent to Korea. He served 13 months in the war zone as a combat medic in 1952 and ’53…
Pfc. Joe Steimel of Holiday Park in North Port was a twice-wounded mortar-man who served in the 29th Infantry Division that fought its way through France and Germany during the last year of the war in Europe in World War II.
George Bagley of Rotunda was in the U.S. Army for 22 years— from 1942, during the middle of World War II, through the Korean War and on until 1964 near the beginning of the Vietnam War.
Leo Scaruffi, who lives in South Port Square Senior Living in Port Charlotte, Fla., was a member of the U.S. Constabulary forces in Bavaria after World War II ended. Their job was to help the German civilians take their country back from Adolph Hitler and the Nazis.
Former Sgt. Bernie Shenal of Port Charlotte, Fla. spent the last month of his three-year tour in the U.S. Army soldiering with Elvis Presley at Fort Hood, Texas in 1958. Shenal was in the 2nd Armored Division and Presley was in the 3rd. Their barracks were side-by-side on the army post.
The 3rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, the outfit Pfc. Tom Moore of Port Charlotte, Fla. served with during World War II, was called “Patton’s Ghost Troops.” They were the flamboyant 3rd Army tank commander’s eyes and ears.
Jim Franklin of Port Charlotte, Fla. fought in five major battles as a member of the 82nd Automatic Weapons Battalion attached to the 2nd Infantry Division during the 11 months and 19 days he served at the start of the Korean War in 1950.
By the time John Kohout of Port Charlotte, Fla. graduated from jump school at Fort Benning, Ga. V-E Day had come and gone. Since the Germans had already surrendered he became a replacement soldier in the 11th Airborne Division sent to the Philippines as part of the occupation force.
Joe Lukasek of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a cannoneer in A-Company, 124th Anti-Aircraft Battalion attached to Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe during World War II. His anti-aircraft unit shot down German V-1 “Buzz Bombs” during the spring of 1944 as they flew over the White Cliffs of Dover. Later in the war they…
Al Tracy of Nokomis was a spy working in East Germany in the ‘60s. He was a member of the U.S. Military Liaison Mission operating out of spy headquarters in 1966 located in a big house in Potsdam.
Former Sgt. Ed Strnad pulled a massive 8-inch artillery piece behind a modified Sherman tank through Europe during World War II as part of Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army.
Jacob Walker of Punta Gorda, Fla. remembers, like it was yesterday, how he joined the service before the Second World War more than 75 years ago.
Only once during the whole time Joe Cigich fought his way through Europe with Gen. Omar Bradley’s 9th Army during World War II was he shot at by the enemy.
Richard Mikutis of Port Charlotte was a teenaged military policeman who served with the U.S. 800th MP Battalion in Kyoto, Japan as part of our occupation troops immediately after the Second World War. It was an experience he never forgot.
Carl Letterie was a 1965 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. After graduation his first assignment as a young second lieutenant was Fort Bliss, Texas to attend the Air Defense Officers Training School. From there he went to Fort Hancock, N.J. for a year as a member of a “Hawk Missile”…
The scariest part of David Cheney’s three years in the Army was during the “Cuban Missile Crisis” in 1962. He was attached to a communication’s outfit stationed in Panama and was within hours of being shipped to Cuba to take part in an invasion by U.S. forces.
For most of his three years in the Army during World War II Ken Bender of Oyster Creek subdivision in Englewood, Fla. was a sergeant in the 31st Coastal Artillery Battalion, 3rd Army in the South Pacific hopping from island to island.
Capt. Herbert Peters (Ret.) of Punta Gorda, Fla. landed at Utah Beach during the Normandy Invasion on June 6, 1944, and continued fighting throughout Europe during the rest of the war. After the fighting was over, he became part of the occupation troops.
The European Theatre Ribbon on Pfc. Lavern Hampton’s chest had five bronze battle stars for five major campaigns he fought in during the Second World War —Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe.
Bob Granchi of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a “Screaming Eagle,” a member of the 101st Airborne Division that jumped behind German lines on D-Day. He was also surrounded by the enemy at Bastogne, Belgium, during “The Battle of the Bulge” in December 1944.
For Howard Bolin of Oyster Creek subdivision in Englewood, Fla. being a member of the U.S. Occupation Force in Germany immediately after World War II meant good times: pretty girls, beer halls, dancing, riding the army’s Harley Davidson motorcycles and playing on the battalion’s baseball team.
Herb Brough of Bobcat Trail subdivision, North Port, Fla. is a medical miracle. Almost 60 years ago, while serving as a “foot-slogger” in the 3rd Battalion, 398th Infantry Regiment of the 7th Army at “The Battle of the Bulge” in Europe, he took a blow to the head he will never forget.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 Eldon Mengel of Venice, Fla. was about a week away from becoming a “90-Day Wonder.” The 89-year-old local man joined the Army almost a year earlier because he had a low draft number and he knew he would be called once war broke out.
U.S. Army Capt. Carrie Wibben is the first of her kind. The 26-year-old graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point is the first woman to be selected commander of the guard for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C.
Former 1st Sgt. Vic Morman, who lives in Lexington Manor Assisted Living Facility in Port Charlotte, Fla., served in the 89th Infantry Division that liberated Auflenlage, part of Buchenwald, the infamous Nazi concentration camp near Ohrdruf, Germany, during the closing days of the war in Europe.
When Francis D’Urso of North Port. Fla. arrived in Korea in 1955 as a member of the 13th Helicopter Company based in Uijongbu, South Korea, approximately 80 miles north of Seoul and 30 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone, he was a 19-year-old specialist-3rd class crew chief on a 19-H “Chickasaw” Sikorsky-built helicopter.
By the time Daren Taylor reached Iraq during “Operation Enduring Freedom” at Christmas time 2005, he had served more than three years in the Army as a combat medic. He was a sergeant attached to the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division.
Budd Brown of Port Charlotte, Fla. fought the Korean War with a saxophone in his hand. He serve as a member of the 2nd Platoon, 10th Special Services Company, 8th Army from January 1952 until February 1953.
Minutes before Spc.-4 Robert Weatherhead was to fly out of the Vietnam jungle in 1969 at the end of his tour with the 25th Infantry Division, he and his buddies got in a firefight with a couple of North Vietnam Army regulars. Then he stepped on an enemy mine and lost his right leg.
Harold Wallace of Arcadia. Fla. was a sergeant in the U.S. Army’s 782nd Engineering Petroleum Distribution Company serving in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. It was his unit’s job to get gasoline and diesel fuel to the front line for the engines of war.
Nick Casertano of Venice, Fla. helped Merrill’s Marauders rid the Burma Road of Japanese soldiers during World War II. He was a mortar-man in the 475th Infantry Regiment.
It’s all a bit fuzzy now for 87-year-old Jay Vredevoogd of Port Charlotte, Fla. who served as an engineer in Gen. Mark Clark’s 5th Army in North Africa, Sicily and Italy in World War II. He was in many of the major battles during the Italian Campaign.
Bill Kilfeder has a connection to the Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans Nursing Home in Port Charlotte. His daughter, Liz Barton, runs the place.
Lt. Col. Bill Richardson (Ret) of Port Charlotte, Fla. fought in three of this country’s wars—World War II, Korea and Vietnam — during his 33 – years of military service.
2nd Lt. Ozzie Nelson, an ‘Army nurse attached to the 6th Field Hospital, sailed for Europe abroad the ocean liner SS Ile de France late in World War II. It was the experience of a lifetime.
Because he could type Merle Branstetter of Burnt Store Marina south of Punta Gorda, Fla. got a job shortly after graduating from high school in 1939. He went to work for a small newspaper in his Iowa home town running a Linotype machine producing newspaper type. Two years later he received an athletic scholarship from…
Victor Brenk of Burnt Store Marina, south of Punta Gorda, Fla. was 18 when he joined Gen. George S. Patton in Europe during World War II as a member of the 851st Ordinance Heavy Auto Maintenance Company. His primary job was to keep the trucks and machinery in “Old Blood and Guts’” army operating.
“Beaver” Radebaugh of Eagle Point mobile home park south of Punta Gorda, Fla.. was a little guy, not much more than five feet tall. He was just the right height to be a Sherman tank driver, part of the 3rd Armored Division that spearheaded Gen. Omar Bradley’s 1st Army through Belgium, across the Rhine River…
The 85-year-old South Venice, Fla. man was a machine gunner who served as a sergeant during World War II in the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, a Canadian unit. He and 10 of his buddies from the old unit, wearing their red berets and blue blazers, went back to central Sicily to see the cliff…
1st Lt. Ralph Calef is undoubtedly the only soldier at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, who shot at Japanese fighters with a bow and arrow.
When 1st Lt. Ward Abbett arrived in Vietnam aboard a purple Braniff Airline he was a well-educated, seasoned soldier. He was a graduate of “The Citadel” in Charleston, S.C. He also spent his first year in the Army stateside as the executive officer of a headquarters company, but he wanted to see action in Vietnam.
Dennis Poulakis of Port Charlotte, Fla. served in the U.S. Army’s North American Air Defense Command in the ’60s.
Ed Stecher of Punta Gorda, Fla. joined the 101st Airborne Division in February 1942 when he was 19-years-old. He jumped as part of the D-Day invasion at Normandy, France, 62 years ago today on June 6, 1944 (when first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper).
Harry Stapleton of Punta Gorda, Fla. drove an M-48 “Patton” tank in Vietnam in 1968-69 named “Crimson and Clover.” The 69-year-old local resident maintains “I was no hero,” but he found himself in some firefights with the enemy he distinctly recalls almost 50 years later.
Jim Knight went overseas as a BAR (Browning Automatic Weapons) man with Patton’s 3rd Army, 76th Infantry Division, 17th Regiment, Company L. Of all of the actions he took part in two are indelibly etched in his memory. The first is his assault across the Sauer River and the seconds the action which resulted in…
Sgt. John Sanderson of Heron Creek subdivision in North Port, Fla. was the leader of the first LRRP team attached to the 4th Infantry Division during the Vietnam War.
By the time World War II rolled around, Bill Richardson had just graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in industrial management. He had already been commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
Joe Picerno of Port Charlotte, Fla. had seven brothers. He and four of them served in the U.S. Army in World War II. His three younger brothers were in the Army during the Korean War. Natal, who was born just before Joe, was a POW of the Germans, captured at the Battle of the Bulge.
Stuart Nord of North Port, Fla. was a member of the 1st Cavalry Division when he flew into Vietnam shortly before the Tet Offensive Jan. 30, 1968. Tet was the nationwide attack by North Vietnamese Army troops and Vietcong guerrillas on the major cities and military bases in the south.
When Billie Jo Forrester was a freshman in college she had to write a short paper for her English class. She entitled it: “My Grandparents’ Stories.”
“We were in the 3rd Army’s drive into Luxembourg as part of Gen. George S. Patton’s troops in Europe during World War II,” Sgt. Otto Brauer of Venice, Fla. said.
Otis Nickerson kept the beat-up old brown leather wallet all these years. Even though it was cut in half, it was his most cherished memento of World War II.
When Pvt. Leslie Kendrick joined the Army shortly after graduating from Port Charlotte High School in Port Charlotte, Fla. in 2003. She thought she was going to be in an office shuffling papers and doing a little typing. It didn’t work out that way.
Sgt. Chuck Beaty was leading an advanced patrol of the 7th Infantry Regiment’s 3rd Division. It was part of Gen. George S. Patton’s 7th Army that invaded Sicily in July 1943 during World War II.
Ray Wiseman of Port Charlotte, Fla. served 27 years in the U.S. Army. He began his military career as a 17-year-old private from the hills of North Carolina in 1951 and retired as a chief master sergeant in 1979. He never fired a shot in anger during the Korean or Vietnam wars.
The pinnacle of Patrick Farino’s photographic career hangs on the wall in his home overlooking the Peace River in Punta Gorda, Fla. It’s a picture of Gen. Douglas MacArthur walking down a Boston street following a parade in his honor shortly after he was fired by President Harry Truman during the Korean War.
A couple of weeks after Ernie Pyle, the most famous war correspondent in World War II, was killed by a Japanese bullet on Ie Shima Island off Okinawa, Pfc. Jim Picard and his 90 mm antiaircraft gun crew arrived.
When he landed on the beach at Normandy, France a few days after the initial invasion of Europe by Allied forces during World War II, Pfc. Mike Vucic of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a 18-year-old rifleman in the 79th Infantry Division attached to Gen. Omar Bradley’s 1st Army. By V-E Day (Victory in Europe) eight…
Bill Fields, an 85-year-old North Port, Fla. resident, signed up in 1947 for the New Jersey National Guard with a couple of high school buddies.
Robin Matthews was an Army medic aboard a hospital train dispatched to treat the wounded from the massacre at No Gun Ri during the early stages of the Korean War more than half a century ago.
Roland Hardt is one American soldier who made the D-Day invasion twice. He also received a bear hug from Gen. George Patton for being “one hell-of-a-good soldier.”
Pvt. Al Gaus was supposed to be an office worker in the 90th Infantry Division that landed on Utah Beach along the Normandy coast on D-Day plus two, June 8, 1944, with thousands of other soldiers.
The one-page “Unit Citation” summed up Pfc. Bill Muldoon ‘s service in World War II. The 91-year-old Maple Leaf Estates resident served in the 19th Infantry Regiment during the Leyte Invasion in World War II.
Even though Pfc. Dominic Socci of North Port, Fla. saw little of the enemy because he was part of a 155 mm Howitzer crew that sat back from the front lines five miles or more, there were times when the war and its aftermath caught up to him and drove home the horrors of battle.
Former Sgt. Michael Hirsh of the Seminole Lakes subdivision, south of Punta Gorda, Fla. was in the first public information detachment of Army reporters since World War II who went to Vietnam.
Col. Bob Carroll never mentioned he was awarded a “Silver Star” in Vietnam “For Gallantry in Action.” The Manasota Key, Fla. resident also has an 8 X 10, black and white, framed photograph of President Lyndon Johnson pinning the medal on him at Fort Benning, Ga. The commendation accompanying the medal says it all.
Frank Miale made four combat jumps with the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II. He survived the war, came home and wrote a book called “Stragedy” about his war experiences.
Don Miller was a Vietnam “Tunnel Rat.” It had to be the worst job an American soldier could have in the Southeast Asian war.
Gordon Gade of the Seminole Lakes subdivision, south of Punta Gorda, Fla. joined the U.S. Army shortly after graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1958 with a degree in business administration. He served in Germany during the Cold War as a guided missile soldier.
Ed Lyman who lives in the Jacaranda Trace Retirement Community in south Venice, Fla. wore a dark blue uniform much like the kind worn by Naval officers during World War II. He even had an anchor patch on one sleeve, however he had captain’s bars on his shoulders. Lyman spent the Second World War explaining…
Two dog tags — one worn by an American soldier, the other by a German soldier — were found in a Luxembourg woods near the German border more than half a century after hostilities ended. The men who wore them crossed paths during the closing months of World War II.
Randy McConnell of Nokomis, Fla. received seven Purple Hearts, more than any other living American soldier, for six months of intensive fighting with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam during the “Tet Offensive” in 1968. He was also awarded two Silver Stars and a Bronze Star for valor together with an Army Commendation Medal with…
On Oct.22, 1942 Tony Di Gregorio of Rotonda, Fla. was drafted into the Army. He was 21. The South Philly soldier took his basic training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It took until the summer of 1944 to board a troop transport and sail in convoy for Scotland.
Pete Marlo of Holiday Estates in Englewood, Fla. served in the 62nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion from Totten, Long Island, N.Y. His unit was attached to Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army during part of World War II. They fought Field Marshal Irwin Rommel during the disaster at the Kasserine Pass shortly after the Invasion of North…
After graduating with a double major in English and Psychology from Norwich University in Northfield, Vt. in 1961, Dominic Ruggerio joined the Army as a 2nd lieutenant. He went to basic at Fort Knox, Ky. the following year.
It was like old times when Sal Russotto of Port Charlotte, Fla. and Charles Wilson of Tampa, Fla. two Korean era vets, met for the first time in 43 years, at Russotto’s home.
Shortly after graduating from high school in 1943, Clarence Tuma was drafted into the Army, went to basic at Fort Stuart, Ga. and traveled by ship to Europe as a member of the 789th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion.
The last time Glenn Fackler saw Walter Anstey, his company commander, it was aboard a hospital ship on their way back to the States at the close of World War II. They were both recovering from war wounds.
At 5-ft, 3-inches tall, Bobbie Caho was the shortest soldier in 106th Artillery Battalion attached to the 27th Infantry Division at the battles of Saipan and Okinawa in the Pacific during World War II. His foxhole buddies called him “Gremlin.”
Pfc. Al Meersman was behind quad-fifty caliber machine guns mounted on a halftrack when it rolled out of an LST onto Omaha Beach on D-Day plus one, June 7, 1944. Eleven months later he and his four buddies were on their halftrack when they met the Russians, who were advancing westward fighting the last of…
It was while Walter Tatko of Venice, Fla. was serving in Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army in France during World War II he and a buddy, Pfc. Frank Zalewski, knocked out a couple of German halftracks loaded with enemy troops.
During his freshman year at the University of Ohio in 1943 Cliff Birdsall of Punta Gorda Fla. was drafted into the U.S. Army in the middle of World War II. A few months later he found himself fighting in Europe as a 57 millimeter gunner in the 106th Infantry Division, part of Gen. Omar Bradley’s…
The Tet Offensive, the largest enemy assault of the Vietnam War, was Spc. 4 Donald Hirkey’s introduction to Southeast Asia almost 40 years ago. The 65-year-old North Port man was a member of A-Company, 2nd-Battalion, 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment, part of “The Screaming Eagles,” the 101st Airborne Division.
George Eyster started off driving a 2 1/2 ton army truck in the 254th Engineering Battalion attached to Gen. Omar Bradley’s 1st Army when it came ashore on Omaha Beach June 6, 1944. He saw the war from the vantage-point of a deuce-and-a-half starting with the invasion beach to the Battle of the Bulge, on…
Most of David Eshelman’s 29 years in the service were spent as an airborne trooper. In 1979 he retired a command sergeant major, the highest rank an enlisted man in the U.S Army can achieve.
A caisson flanked by an honor guard and drawn by six matching brown horses held Harold Sandler’s remains in a steel-gray casket draped with an American flag. The eight soldiers in impeccable Army dress were commanded by an equally resplendent captain. All waited in statue-like silence last Tuesday on a road in Arlington National Cemetery,…
“Merrill’s Marauders” is what newspaper reporters who covered their exploits a lifetime ago during World War II called them. Officially they were the “5307th Composite Unit Provisional,” a long-range penetration special operations jungle warfare unit that fought the Japanese in the jungles of Burma.
Derek Nelson of North Port, Fla. served 3 1/2 years in Vietnam. He first went there in 1967 as an 18-year-old member of the 9th Infantry Division located in the Macon Delta. During his second tour in 1969 he served with the 1st Logistics Command in Saigon. His last 18 months over there he was…
Cpl. George Walther of Englewood worked as part of Lt. Eli Wallach’s crew helping produce “Is This The Army?” during World War II in Europe. The yet-to-be-famous Hollywood actor appeared in the play poking fun at the leaders of the Axis enemy powers.
Dutch Dutcher was a 17-year-old wise-guy from Brockton, Mass. when he signed up for the Army with a friend in 1967.
Cpl. Gwen Sieg returned home afer six months on the front lines in Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division after fighting her way through the desert and into Baghdad. Proudly waiting her homecoming were her 6-year-old daughter, her mother and three younger brothers and sisters.
Keith Jones was too skinny to get in the Navy in 1942, but the Army took him anyway despite his lack of weight. He became a member of the 87th Infantry Division, part of Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe during the Second World War.
Don Schmitt of Maple Leaf Estates, Port Charlotte, Fla. was trained as a combat engineer and sent to Okinawa during the final days of World War II. He was a corporal who served with the Army’s 47th Combat Engineers in the Pacific at the close of the war.
Lee St. John was a bit of a contradiction in Vietnam. He was a Baptist kid from Arcadia, Fla. who ran a liquor warehouse in ‘Nam. He was a small arms specialist who never fired a shot until he wound up in a Southeast Asian war. He was a “spook,” or spy, a member of…
Joe Falis tried to sign up for the service the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Trouble was, he was only 17 and he had to have his parents’ permission.
Steve Logsdon of Rotonda, Fla. joined the Army at 17, shortly after graduating from high school, just in time for the start of the Korean War. He went from basic training to the front line holding back advancing waves of North Korean infantry during the monumental battle of the Pusan Perimeter in the summer and…
The inscription on the front of the white ball cap siting on the coffee tale says it all: “America’s most Decorated 34th Infantry Division.” Below the inscription was an irregular shaped patch showing the head of a bull in red on a solid black background the 34th Division’s insignia.
For much of his five years in the Army James Lunn was within arms length of the firing button for ground to air guided missile. He was an Army’s fire control specialist for land-based “Hawk Missiles” in the U.S., South Korea and Germany.
Pfc. William McWha, Serial No. 31305306, was a replacement soldier. He was one of the tens of thousands of American infantrymen from the “Repo Depot” who were put on the front lines in the heat of battle during World War II to replace killed or wounded soldiers.
In 1942 when Glenn Magner of Tangerine Woods mobile home park in Englewood, Fla. enlisted in the Army he was 16-years-old. He told them he was 20 and got away with it.
The Piper Cub, used as an artillery spotter plane, did more to defeat the German Army in World War II then any other American airplane, according to Capt. John Johnson.
John Ardolino of Burnt Store Marina, south of Punta Gorda, Fla. served a couple of years as a member of Company B, 25th Signal Battalion in Germany during the early 1960s. He and his buddies strung telephone lines from the command center to the front lines if war broke out.
“Radio Bamiyan” is what it’s unofficially called. The tiny, 400-watt station established six months ago by Staff Sgt. Joe Smith, chief of the U.S. Army Psychological Operations group stationed there, is helping change the hearts and minds of the 50,000 inhabitants of the Bamiyan Valley in the central highlands of Afghanistan.
Fred Stuenkel graduated from Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, Fla. in 1965. He continued his education at Manatee Junior College in Bradenton, a few miles north up Florida’s west coast, until his funds ran out. It was 1969, the year he received notice from the draft board, he had been selected to join the…
2nd Lt. U.S. Cleveland was a key part of the most elaborate hoax ever attempted by Allied forces during World War II. This picture of him was taken in Fort Knox, Ky. in 1941. Photo provided
Geoffrey Morris of Venice. Fla. was a conscientious objector who volunteered to become a medic with the 237th Medical Detachment. He flew out of Quang Tri, Vietnam in 1970-71 aboard a DMZ Dust Off helicopter rescuing wounded soldiers and taking them to the 18th Surgical Hospital for emergency treatment.
After flunking out of Northern Michigan University in his sophomore year in 1968 Don Rudness of North Port, Fla. was classified 1-A by the draft board and sent to Vietnam by his friends and neighbors.
Col. Norm Mac Lellan of Venice had already served one tour in Vietnam and survived the 1968 Tet Offensive when he got in the firefight of his life with North Vietnamese Army troops during his second tour of duty along Highway 1, north of Saigon in the summer on 1972.
Warrant Officer 5th Class Jim Stivers of North Port flew Army Hueys, Sky Crane and Chinook helicopters starting in Vietnam and for the next three decades. He eventually became an instructor pilot who checked out helicopters pilots around the world.
In January 1966 Pfc. Ron Heurlin of Punta Gorda, Fla. flew into Tan Son Nhat Airbase in Saigon, Vietnam. He was a member of Company B, 28th Regiment, 1st Infantry Division known as “The Black Lions.”
Almost a year after four Japanese Imperial Navy aircraft carriers were sunk at the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942, the Japanese troops that went ashore at the same time on Attu Island in the Aleutians suffered a similar fate.
Long before his squad slogged through the black volcanic beach on Iwo Jima in February 1945, Sgt. Paul Vnencak, who winters in Port Charlotte, had seen considerable action as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division.
More than half a century after he was shot in the back and hand in two major World War II engagements, the 77-year-old Punta Gorda, Fla. retiree still has trouble talking about what he went through. “It was hell,” he said.
Until he was 18 and graduated from Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, Fla. in 1974 Bill Gomes spent most of his time in the saddle punching cows on ranches in Charlotte and De Soto counties. He was a “Florida Cracker,” better known as a cowboy. He wasn’t much interested in his education.
Jiggs Yeager was a sergeant in the 39th Signal Battalion attached to the 26th Yankee Division, part of Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe during World War II.
Pfc. Dave Lea of Englewood, Fla. spent much of his time in the service in the most boring place on the planet — Thule, Greenland.
For James Broner of Englewood, Fla., Dec. 7, 1942 is a day he will always remember. That was the day his older brother was killed by a Japanese machine gunner and he lost his left leg to a sniper’s bullet. Both incidents took place within hours of each other a few hundred feet apart at…
Sgt. Bryan Coward is in an elite group. He’s part of a handful of local students attending one of the United States’ military academies. Coward is midway through his junior year at West Point. He is a 2003 graduate of Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, Fla. His parents, Tony and Sandee Coward , live…
It was the middle of the Korean War, August 1952, when Charles Dusek enlisted the U.S. Army. He was 19-years-old at the time living with his family in Chicago.
The old man sitting on his purple electric scooter in his son’s Port Charlotte, Fla. home was once a sniper in the 10th Armored “Tiger” Division when it landed in France shortly after D-Day during World War II.
Spc. 4 Brian Nethery is headed back to Iraq after 15 days’ rest and relaxation following eight months in the thick of it with the “Big Red One,” the 1st Infantry Division, stationed at Balad, approximately 50 miles north of Baghdad.
Tom Poole was a Green Beret, a member of the Special Forces, in Vietnam in 1964. Later he became a Central Intelligence operative in Laos commanding mercenaries along the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the “Secret War” in 1970.
Jim Fraser already had two years of college behind him at the Missouri School of Mines when he got a chance to take a competitive exam in 1944, along with 360 other potential candidates, for the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Pvt. Richard Erdley was a member of the 35th Infantry Division, part of Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army, in World War II. He was wounded at the battle for Nancy, France shortly after the general’s 3rd Army began to push the Germans into Germany during the final assault of the Second World War.
Sgt. Richard Spearin is every bit the Multiple Launch Rocket System gunner as he stares out of a picture on a photo wall at Lemon Bay High School in Englewood, Fla. of former students now serving in the military around the world\
Before completing 21 years of service in the U.S. Army’s Dental Corps, Col. Carl Hansen of Punta Gorda, Fla. made five-star Gen. Omar Bradley, commander of the 12th Army Group in Europe during World War II who also served as the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after the war, a set of…