They fought in Japan, Iwo Jima, France, Belgium, Vietnam and Korea and their stories many years later are still filled with horror, bravery and love. On Veterans Day, The Palm Beach Post spoke with six who gathered at Boynton’s Veterans Memorial Park to hear all about who they are, the wars they fought and what they remember the most. Here are their memories:
Veteran John Keane Age: 86
Grew up: The Bronx, New York
Rank: Corporal, a combat medic with the 45th infantry division
Dates served: September 1951 to September 1954, enlisted at 18 “just to serve my country” and worked the front lines for nine months.
Most vivid memory: Chinese troops invaded one night, bugles blowing and bullets flying. “You’re trying to patch up so many,” said Keane, who summed up scenes of death and devastation as “turmoil” and “organized chaos.” He said it was “one of those things, you had to be there.”
Worst thing about the war: The “turmoil,” but he defers on this to POWs.
Emotions on returning to US soil: Thrilled to be coming home to a family that threw him a party.
Life now: He lives happily in Boynton. “Life is nice and quiet, and surreal,” he said.
Veteran David Segool Age: 96 in two weeks
Grew up: Boston
War: World War II
Rank: Army Air Corps staff sergeant who operated and installed radio equipment and worked for P51s, B29s and Iwo Jima air and sea rescue
Dates served: Feb. 9, 1943, to January 1946, enlisted at 18
Most vivid memory: The night an ammunition dump went off, related to a trip flare; “You couldn’t hide from anything,” he said.
Worst thing about the war: “War is hell … no ifs, ands or buts about it,” he says. “You do what you have to do and get it over with.”
Emotions on returning to US soil: “Fantastic… that you have a chance to resume your life.”
Life now: “Nothing is the same,” he said. After working as an aerospace engineer, Segool says his health is holding up and he cherishes each day.
Veteran Bob Harris Age: 81
Grew up: St. Louis
Rank: Preferred not to disclose; worked in intelligence with the Air Force; his son is now a lieutenant commander.
Dates served: Oct. 5, 1956 to January 1963.
Most vivid memory: In Russia, he remembers snow that piled up to his eyebrows. In Taiwan, he heard someone compare Americans on that soil to “debts of blood only blood can pay.” He said he then realized, “I better figure out a way to escape.”
Worst thing about the war: “Fear, yes.”
Emotions on returning to US soil: After an involuntary extension of three months, nine days and four hours, he says, “It was a little late for what I wanted to do … I was very grateful to be back.”
Life now: Retired criminal defense attorney and current croquet player in Boynton. “Life is wonderful… I love all of the veterans.”
Veteran Armando Capasso Age: 98
War: World War II
Rank: Air Force, Corporal
Dates served: 1951-1955 on a B24 bomber
Most vivid memory: The 40 below temperatures in the unpressured cabin. “We were at 30,000 feet. We dressed like an Eskimo. It was always so cold.”
Worst thing about the war: Seeing all the flak coming at us. “You could only pray that it wouldn’t hit our plane.”
Emotions on returning to US soil: “Too difficult to express.”
Life now: “Try to stay as busy as I can. Look forward to attending these Veteran’s Day ceremonies. Make it to church every week.”
Veteran Jerry Schnur Age: 90
War: World War II
Rank: US Maritime Service, Seaman
Dates served: 1945-47
Most vivid memory: “Using a captured Italian ship after the war to bring back war brides to the US. There were 1,600 of them that we transported from different European countries and got them to America.”
Worst thing about the war: “Transporting highly flammable cargo. We often had 140,000 gallons of high-octane gasoline on board. If we took a hit, the ship would have been gone. Everyone was experiencing a lot of anxiety.”
Emotions on returning to US soil: “It was such a relief. I do not how they did it but my parents were waiting for me at the dock.”
Life now: Retired.
Veteran Charles West Age: 88
Rank: Navy, Third Class Petty Officer
Dates served: 1951-1955 on the USS Midway
Most vivid memory: “The 20-foot waves cascading over the deck. Incredibly rough. Ship wobbled back and forth. Patrolled in the North Sea in European waters.”
Worst thing about the war: The loss of life. There were numerous accidents with planes trying to take off and land on the aircraft carrier. A number of pilots did not make it.
Emotions on returning to US soil: “Tears were in everyone’s eyes as we headed toward the Navy base in Norfolk. We could see the lights of the city. It was so exhilarating.”
Life now: Retired in Boynton Beach.
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