My list is long today but I would provide a great disservice to these men and women if I cut any of the personal stories they have shared.
1. I grew up in a small western Pennsylvania town. I tried college, but it just wasn't for me and I needed a change and a way to get out. On a whim, I started checking into Air Force and joined. None of my friends and most of my family didn't have clue about what I was doing. I just knew that it would get me away and I'd have something to do for four years. I really didn't think beyond that. Although I didn't realize it, basic training made a big change in my life and the next time I was home (Christmas) my family was amazed at how different I was. My plan was to serve for four years, get some job experience and move on. Military service can change you in many ways. I retired from the military three years ago after more than 20 years of service. I finished my Bachelor’s degree while stationed in Germany and received my commission as an officer 3 years later. I have met a lot of people and been a lot of places. I still have friends that I was stationed with at my first assignment more than 23 years ago. The military has given me a sense of duty that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. I was selected for a short notice deployment in support of Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom. From the time I was notified to the time I had to be in theater was about 3 weeks. I didn’t have time to think about a lot of things or spend time with family and friends. I just got done what I needed to do and went. Military service does this to you. You know that the job needs to be done and you do it. If you slack off, it could mean someone is going to lose their life.
I also have a sense of pride that I didn’t have before. The Pledge of Allegiance was just something we started our school day with and the Star Spangled Banner was just another song we sang. I’ve been to Arlington National Cemetery twice and it is a very sobering experience to see row upon row of grave markers of soldiers that have served and in many cases given their lives. I’ve sat at the Tomb of the Unknowns and watched the guards patrol. They are there 24/7 365 days a year in all weather. It may only be a symbol to some but it signifies that as long as we have men and women fighting and dying for our country, they will not be forgotten. We have an all-volunteer force in the military. The men and women that are putting their lives in danger on a daily basis volunteered by their own free will to ensure the freedom we have as citizens will endure. They are not war-mongers looking for a fight. They, above anyone else, would rather be home in the states with their families serving in a time of peace, but are willing to lay their lives on the line for our country.----Maj Palermo (Ret.)
2. I joined the military to gain job experience. What I received was something I hadn't expected; an overwhelming sense of pride in our country. When I was in school, I stood there for the pledge of allegiance or the playing of the national anthem and did my half hearted salute. Once I joined I took pride in the flag and what it stands for. One time, I was at a McDonald's and was watching an employee take down the flags. Each flag he took down he draped around his neck. When he did the same thing with the stars and stripes I went to see the manager. I was outraged with how this employee handled this symbol for our country. The manager said from now on they would use two members of his staff to pull the flags so this wouldn't happen again. If there is something I could tell everyone, next time the national anthem plays at the sporting event you are at or the flag passes by in a parade render your salute with pride and the knowledge you are lucky to live in a free country. Free, thanks to the men and women who have died for this country.-----SSgt Anne Schimke
3. I joined the military to travel the world, job experience and education. I was a Security Forces member and deployed to both Kuwait and Iraq. Iraq was the toughest thing I had ever done, I can't go into a lot of detail, but let's just say it wasn't a vacation! I think that people that are going in should be warned... there are people that don't like you, There are some that respect you. I can't count the times I was in uniform and had my hand shaken, but I also can’t count the times people spat on me or gave me a word or two. It's sad. I did my six years and I tell you what, I wouldn't trade it for the world. Even though I am happy now being a stay at home mom, I still feel pride and glad that I had joined and served our country. --- Anonymous
4. The thing that resonates with me is that after seeing the things I've seen overseas and all the places I've been, you get a deep appreciation of what THIS country stands for. Americans don't know how good they have it. I still get choked up and angry when I see Americans burn our flag. We may have our problems, but there is no place on Earth like the great USA. Serving in the USAF gave me an opportunity to see that for myself, whether helping people in 3rd world countries or getting shot at or even just having a good time with friends in great places around the world. --- Anonymous
5. I was the snoopy child in the family, the only girl. Since I was different my brothers would always tell me I was adopted. That was not true but it took me a few years of searching in our attic to finally come across my birth certificate. While I was snooping, I came across many pictures of my father’s years in the military. He never shared any of those stories, until much later in his life. He was stationed in the Philippines, he had enlisted when he was 17 years old and his mother had to sign a permission form. While he was in the Philippines he worked under the Chaplin and news got around that a ship was coming in for supplies. There was a big military supply warehouse in the Philippines. The ship had my father’s brother Sam on it and the Chaplin made arrangements for my father to go aboard and visit. Sailors were not allowed to leave the ship. My father told me he was scared to death getting in a dinghy in the dark of night and heading out to the ship. He was allowed to spend an hour with his brother. He said they were very nice to him and he said they took their picture. I remember seeing it in the attic. My father also flew back and forth to Australia during the War on the big cargo planes. He was never involved in any combat that I know of. He was a member of the 42nd Naval Construction Battalion .His division of the military the Seabee’s went in after the destruction and began the rebuilding process. There are also pictures of my father playing Santa Claus to the Filipino children and working among the Filipino’s in their garden fields. At my father’s funeral a sailor in full uniform came and played taps and presented the American flag to my mother, to me and I still can feel the chills it was a very profound moment for our family. I captured the flag. I am the snoopy one and the preserver of history. It sits in a triangular case in plain view atop a hutch in my family room. I am proud to have it. He also received the Pacific Theater Ribbon. American Theater Ribbon, Philippine Liberation Ribbon, and the Victory medal.
6. My father was in the Army, right after the war. They sent him to Japan for a year. He was a dynamite pitcher in high school, 23-0 in 3 varsity seasons. The record
still stands today. The closest he ever came to losing, his right fielder and best friend threw out 2 runners at home plate and they won the game 2-1. The Phillies and the Detroit Tigers were looking at him, but he got drafted. He played softball in the Army and when he came out, he started to throw the hardball again and hurt his arm, so, therefore I never became the son of a major leaguer. He is well known in the history of his high school baseball circle. The Army paid for 4 years at Penn State for him. --- Anonymous
7. Many years after Viet Nam I worked with a gentleman who was in that war, he saw combat and talked about being in muddy, rat infested holes. He didn’t mind telling his stories but his hands shook and even though he never drank on the job he smelled of alcohol every morning. He was a kind, good man but he never made it past 40 years old. I suspect the war took its toll. --- Anonymous
8. Lt, Commander is the highest ranking officer I ever knew personally. Commander Owsiany served in the active U.S. Navy from 1981 through 1987. During that time he was a division officer aboard the USS Dubuque from 1981 to 1982. Following that, as assistant department head (surface warfare officer) aboard the USS Saipan, from 1981 to 1985, his duties included directing up to 15 boats in beach assaults during participation in Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. He served as executive officer in special operations aboard the USS Edenton from 1985 to 1987, when his duties included navigator, training officer, legal officer, maintenance manager and security manager. The Edenton participated in the Sixty Fleet during the 1986 Libya retaliations and Middle East operations. From 1987 to 1990, he served with the Naval Reserve as liaison officer at the Naval Weapons Station, Earle, N.J., and from 1990 to 1993; he was executive officer of Special Operations Command in the USCINSCO Theater of Operations. He began his military career with the Army Transportation Corps where he served as an information specialist/journalist from 1975 to 1978. His military awards included the Surface Warfare Pin, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Army Journalist of the Year, and numerous other commendations. I was in contact with him during his entire naval career. I obtained all this information from an obituary, he never boasted of his accomplishments. I only knew him as a good friend. He was killed by a drunk driver in Arizona in 1993. His influence on me shows up a lot in my lists. If he were here today I am sure he would have many heroic stories to share but then again, he was a modest man. I was and will always be immensely proud of him.---a good friend
9. I joined the US 82nd Airborne Paratroopers right out of high school when the United States was just getting out of Vietnam. I always believed in the military, my brother was a fighter pilot in Vietnam so I was always aware of what was going on there. I was upset about the way people treated the returning Vietnam vets. There was no glory. Basic training was rough. Many of the drill sergeants had been in Vietnam and at that time they were allowed to smack you around. Even though I was never in Vietnam, because I was wearing the uniform certain places in the United States I traveled to people were very mean to the military and I was spat upon. You could always tell a World War II veteran because they would come up to you and shake your hand and thank you for your service. The 82nd Airborne Troopers are known to be on call and available in 24 hours. I saw a lot of places I was in Panama and Ft. Drum. I learned about risk and it was something that prepared me for my future career as an undercover narcotics officer. I never sustained any injuries during my military service but I was shot 6 years after I became a police officer. It is a very dangerous job and my military experience helped prepare me for that. ---Ed G.
10. Yesterday, I had the honor of being in the presence of Ed Kane, a survivor of Pearl Harbor and his wife Angelina. I was awestruck. They now reside in Riddle Village in Media but have lived in California and Florida and Mrs. Kane remarked that she loves it in Pennsylvania because she is close to family and loves the change of seasons. I just sat there for 2 ½ hours and listened. Ed has been interviewed before by the newspaper with a huge two page article, he is that amazing of a man. He began by telling me that on March 11th, 1940 he and six buddies were sitting around in South Philly drinking a gallon of Mission Bell wine, there were no jobs so they decided the next day to go to the Federal Building at 4th and Market and enlist in the Navy. The country was not yet at war and the military was selective. Only 2 out of 27 were accepted and he was one of them. Another friend, Jimmy Crystal was not accepted because his bite was uneven. Two weeks later Ed had to go through the same physical and he failed. He was told he had a perforated ear drum. He went to a medical facility at 18th and Lombard in Philadelphia and they discovered it was just a build up of ear wax and he was given a clean bill of health and now accepted by the military. On March 26th he headed to Newport, Rhode Island for 3 months of training and was then sent to the Philadelphia Navy Yard to board his first ship, the USS Doran 185. Ed could readily recall each and every ship he had been on and the call numbers that preceded the name. While aboard the Doran, their ship was to sail to Massachusetts to be part of a procession of ships that were passed by President Roosevelt’s yacht. While the President was passing the command went out “man to rail”. He was a new sailor and he got nervous and started running around, he thought it meant, man overboard. In actuality it meant to stand along the rail at attention. After that he sailed to Nova Scotia to turn the ship over to England which was a common practice to do when we were not at war. His next assignment took him to Long Beach, California, his next ship was named the USS Worden, and not long after he was there word got around that they were headed to Honolulu. He was very excited to go to this exotic island until he got there and saw there was a Sear and Roebuck store. Then it didn’t seem so special. The routine of the ships during peace time was to go out to sea during the day and return the same day. The exercises began to increase and they would sometimes stay out to sea 4-5 days, then the port holes were welded up so they wouldn’t sink. On Pearl Harbor Day the USS Worden was parked along with the Macdonough, Phelps and the Hull. His ship was in for repair the boilers were being worked on. He worked in the boiler area. He had just come back from liberty at 2am and they thought they were watching a circus it was just not sinking in. A Japanese plane dropped a bomb 30 yards from the four destroyers that were parked together. They had no idea how they would have missed those ships. One of the gunners on the Worden shot down one of the Japanese planes with a 50 caliber machine gun. He laughs at recalling the Pearl Harbor movie Pacific and the artillery they used to depict the story. He said “we didn’t have anything fancy like that”. His story does not end there and to hear him tell it is fascinating. The Worden and he as a crewman were part of the Midway, Guadal Canal, Coral Sea, and the New Hebrides battles in 1942. In January of 1943 while the ship was part of an advanced security detail off Amchitka Island in the Aleutians in Alaska in unchartered waters they become stuck on some rocks. The USS Dewey tried to pull them out but they were unsuccessful and the next thing he recalls is that they were given the command to abandon ship. He jumped into the 34 degree water and lost the sight of the ship from the height of the waves. He survived and had a desire to live when he heard the voice from another crew member saying to him “Eddie I have your blues”. Apparently the blues were an expensive part of a sailor’s uniform that they didn’t used every day. He was inspired and soon was retrieved out of the water. Ed received a 30 day leave after that. The Worden broke in two and 14 men lost their lives that day. His naval stories do not end there. He was then sent to Orange, Texas, his next ship was the USS Murray, it was while aboard this ship that he met a fellow South Philly kid and they became very good friends and later became brother-in-laws. This is how Ed met Angelina, they all grew up in South Philly but prior to military service and the war they did not know one another. On September 11th, 1943 his brother, Tom was killed while serving on the USS Rowan. It was attacked by German eboats off the coast of Salerno, Italy. Ed was out to sea and heard the news about his brother from a letter his mother sent to him. His brother was only 20 years old. Mr. Kane recalls vividly that while he was on the USS Murray they had an assignment called “pick a duty”. After the Battle of Tarawa they were to pick up nine marines bodies for a military burial at sea. He said the bodies were all bloated from lying in the water and he will never forget the smell of the bodies. Mr. Kane loved his time serving his country and would have enlisted again after six years of service had it not been for his father-in-law. He gave him an ultimatum pick the Navy or pick my daughter. As he calls her, he chose the angel of his life, Angelina. She is a delightful woman, I enjoyed meeting and talking with them both. I believe he made the correct choice. I asked him, what he thought about the dropping of the bomb and he said, “Listen if the President hadn’t made that decision and we invaded Japan, millions of American lives would have been lost. The Japanese never would have given up”. I also asked if harbored any ill feelings against the Japanese and he said “no”. He purchased a Toyota years later and had a Pearl Harbor survivor sticker attached to the bumper and someone remarked to him, “that’s funny a Pearl Harbor sticker on a Toyota” and his response, “it was a great car.” He also wanted it mentioned that a few years ago while he was in Media for a Memorial Day Parade dressed in the custom Pearl Harbor survivor uniform, a flowered Hawaiian shirt, white pants, white shoes and a commemorative cap, two young men about 13 years old said, “Hey Pearl Harbor survivor, I know where that is, it is a fishing town in Florida”. It makes him sad that they do not teach geography and history in this country in our schools anymore. ---Told to me by Mr. Ed Kane himself, a true survivor.
There is a website oldchesterpa.com that has a fascinating collection of the history of Chester. It has a veteran’s section where you can submit your own history or record with pride that someone in your family served their country. It is a fine place to boast your pride. I am unaware of other sites that offer this opportunity and welcome anyone to supply that information if they have it.