The following stories of war were told to me by my father, uncles, and friends who are no longer with us:

“I was on a troop ship going to Normandy. It was the worst – bathrooms all backed up and puke everywhere. I went to get a cup of coffee and the cooks were just cleaning out the large coffee urns that had hundreds of dead roaches in them.” – Robert E. Rutherford, Private First Class, US Army, D-Day plus 5, Normandy, France, June 1944

“They shipped us out right after basic training to fight in Germany. I was there a short period of time when we went to the front line near a tree-lined area in a forest. On my first day of combat, I was standing behind a tree with an M1. I stuck my head out to aim at something when a German sniper shot me in the helmet. The bullet went around the helmet, into the top of my shoulder, down through my leg and into my boot. I spent three weeks on a hospital ship and I was then shipped home. One day of combat, shot once, one Purple Heart and sent home – that was the extent of my WW2 experience! I still have the bullet at home.” – Name Forgotten, Private, US Army, somewhere in Germany, 1945

“The British soldiers loved Spam so much they would trade us for it with their cigarettes named Player’s Navy Cut. Worst cigarettes I ever smoked!” –Tony Haryn, Tech Corporal, US Army Air Forces, somewhere in the North Pacific islands, 1944

“One of the guys was coming back to the sub from leave – late and drunk. To avoid going on report, he dove into the water, swam under the sub, came up on the opposite side, and got into the sub through the side coning tower hatch. He went right to his bunk and fell asleep. The next day he was found by the chief of the boat in his bunk and was still listed AWOL (absent without leave) and put on report. – Robert Amann, Torpedoman’s Mate 3rd Class, US Navy, USS Proteus, South Pacific, 1943

“My job was driving a 5,000-gallon gasoline truck. I would back the truck up to a cave where Japanese soldiers were hiding and dump a few 100 gallons of gas into the cave. I would then throw a grenade into the cave.” – Bud Burgunder, Private First Class, US Marine Corps, somewhere in the South Pacific, 1945

“We were outside a farm house and my sergeant ordered me to run up to the house and throw a grenade through the front window in case there were Germans in it. I was so scared I ran up to the window and threw the grenade as hard as I could. It went through the front window and out the back window and blew up in the backyard. There were no Germans in the house. – Charlie Callas, Private, US Army, somewhere in Germany, 1945

“The army was the best thing that happened to me. I was 17 years old, had a place to sleep, three meals day, and clean clothes.” – Royce Nordensvan, Private, US Army, somewhere in Italy, 1945

“I had frostbite in both feet, it was cold beyond belief, and I may have caught a few other diseases there. Till this day I don’t think I’ve been right since I got home from Korea.” – Robert Oravetz, Private, US Marine Corps, Chosin Reservoir, North Korea, 1950

To all veterans, past and present, we salute you and thank you for your service. Have a peaceful Memorial Day.

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