Jon’s Jottings: Two more World War II vets join final roll callWhile we honored those who have served our country on Veterans Day last Friday, I was reminded of two World War II veterans we lost not long before.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
While we honored those who have served our country on Veterans Day last Friday, I was reminded of two World War II veterans we lost not long before.
Mary Hoel, who served in the U.S. Navy WAVES and Dick Peulen, who was in the Army Air Corps and served all over the South Pacific Theater and in Japan after the war ended.
Mary died Oct. 11 at age 89.
Dick died Nov. 4 at age 89.
I had the pleasurable experience of meeting both of them and writing stories about their experiences during the war.
Mary was a gentle soft-spoken lady who was sure to remind me, “What we (women)did was nothing like what the boys went through,” when I wrote the story in 2001.
She was the former Mary Francis Cameron of North Hudson when she joined the Navy.
“Everybody was doing something for the war effort,” she told me. “I had a friend in the WACS (Army) but I liked the Navy uniforms better.
Dick exchanged a number of experiences and anecdotes with me for several stories beginning in August of 2003.
When the war ended on Aug. 15, 1945, Dick was a staff sergeant stationed on the island of le Shima near Okinawa as U.S. Forces were preparing to invade Japan. In September his 5th Air Force Service Group arrived in Japan and set up at Sapporo, the site of the 1972 Winter Olympics.
Peulen joined the Army in 1942 after graduating from Stillwater High School in 1940. His first combat duty was during the battle of Leyte in the Philippine Islands.
He had a deep fondness for the St. Croix River Valley where he grew up and was an unabashed supporter of a new bridge across the river at Stillwater. “I watched the dedication of the lift bridge when I was about eight years old. I moved to Hudson three years ago because they hadn’t built a new bridge yet,” he told me during an interview for a 2003 Star-Observer story.
Dick liked to write and he contributed several pieces to the Star-Observer for Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
He also won a number of awards for an essay he wrote on the beauty of Wisconsin he sent in to the local and national veterans writing contest.
Dick’s lovely wife, Jeanene, recalled the civilian efforts during World War II for a story we did in 2007. It captured anecdotes of the war effort on the home front sometimes forgotten.
It has been my belief that World War II was the most significant event of the 21st century. It was a true global war. Very few corners of the earth were untouched by it, either directly or indirectly.
Now the persons most significantly involved in it, veterans, are leaving us in droves.
Statistic from the Department of Veterans Affairs list total U.S. Service members (worldwide) in World War II was over 16 million. There were 291,557 battle deaths. The estimated living veterans in May was 2,089,000; in September 1,711.00.
The VA estimated 850 veterans of World War II died every day in 2009.
So if you have a living family member who served at the time, cherish the memories and stories. Write them down or record them. It is living history.
If a family member who served is deceased, hold tight to his photos and letters from the time, important history of that significant event.
And always give thanks for their service.