Letters to the Editor

June 12, 2004

The final chapter: Vets who touched readers' lives

By Bob Maginnis

Last month I asked readers to tell me stories about a veteran of the armed forces - a family member or friend - who had touched their lives for the better. After an initially slow response, I've been overwhelmed with stories. This is the last batch, some of which have been edited for space reasons:

Rodney Guessford of Hagerstown wrote about his father.

"There is not much I can tell you about my dad's military experience. He never talked about it, even when I asked. I can tell you he lied about his age to join the Army at age 17. His first and only action in World War II was D-Day on Omaha Beach. Imagine being 17-18 years old and being in D-Day.

"No wonder he never talked about it. He rejoined in 1950 and fought in Korea. He did say he shot a prisoner trying to escape, but that was all he would tell me."


"I respect him for that, but I miss not knowing what it was like when I was a kid."

"My dad's long gone now. He survived two wars, then died of a brain tumor in 1981. I still miss him."

Guy J. Nasuti of Martinsburg, W.Va., wrote about his grandfather, Guy Irvine Wetherall, who fought in France in World War II.

"Son of a dairy farmer, he wanted to be anything but a farmer himself. He was a tall, skinny kid with glasses and also a straight shooter with an overdeveloped sense of right always winning out over wrong."

When war broke out, he waited to be drafted and was then sent to England to await the invasion of France.

"He always resented the Army splitting up a unit he had trained with, with men he came to trust and be friends with. It was a bitter stab at his sense of fair play."

Once, on a march, a colonel drove up in a jeep and criticized the line for not moving quickly enough. Cpl. Wetherall told the officer that, "If you think you can do it any faster, why don't you try it?" He was soon busted back to private.

After the war, he studied accounting at Ohio State and became a member of the Internal Revenue Service, serving with Robert Kennedy's strike force, searching out crooked politicians and the mob.

Later on, he started a volunteer fire company in Gulfport, Miss., and served as a firefighter there.

"Being a war vet myself, I know his sense of pride, patriotism and thankfulness for having served and making it home when so many others never will. All veterans have a greater appreciation for home and for life. And for one another."

Pauline Reeder of Boonsboro wrote about two veterans. She met the first while working in the cafeteria of Fairchild Aircraft. They married in 1945, when he was a male nurse stationed at Eglin Airbase in Florida.

He eventually went to the Philippines to care for the U.S. wounded there. After the war, he returned to his job at Fairchild. The couple had "four beautiful children, whom he loved very much."

The family also ran a five-acre truck farm for 30 years, selling raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and vegetables.

After her first husband passed away, she married Dennis (Hinckle) Reeder in 1981.He had also been a WWII vet, serving in the Navy on ships that escorted convoys of supplies and traveling all over the world.

After coming home, he worked in his father's store and played baseball well enough to be drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

"He was a left-handed pitcher and in an exhibition game he struck out Mickey Mantle."

Sadly, he never made it to the big leagues and his first marriage broke up and he left the road to raise his three daughters.

He was active in youth baseball leagues as a Babe Ruth League coach for 25 years.

"In 1987, he retired and we traveled to see this great country of ours," she said, adding that he passed away in 2001. He is a member of the Washington County Sports Hall of Fame for his work as a coach and mentor.

Diane Hamlin of Hagerstown wrote about her father, Franklin Delano Fehr.

"He served his country in the Korean War. He doesn't speak of his time there, or of the medals he brought home. His story is of heroism of a different sort.

"I am one of 10 children my father raised with love and understanding. One day I asked him what was the biggest thing he learned from fighting in a war.

"He took my hand and said, 'That life's road isn't over until it's paved with gold.'

"I thought that was silly at the time, but six years ago, things became quite bad for my father."

A diabetic, he suffered three strokes, a double heart bypass and six amputations on both legs. One night, after the last operation, the doctor called and said the family should stand by, because it was unlikely he would survive the night.

"That night my 9-year-old daughter gave me a hug and very confidently stated, 'Mom, Pappy's going to be fine."

"My reply was, 'Kimberly, how do you know?' "

" 'Cause," she said, 'Pappy said his road isn't over until it's paved with gold and his isn't gold yet.'

Fehr survived the night, and with the aid of two prosthetic legs, is living life to the fullest.

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