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Veterans remember war times, comrades who didn't come home

May 29, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

BEAVER CREEK - Harold Martin said he was sitting on a stool in 1942 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Wasp when a Japanese torpedo tore through the ship.

After the 20-year-old picked himself off the deck, he said he could only watch as the resulting fire rapidly spread.

"It looked like it was in the middle of a furnace," Martin said.

The survivors donned lifejackets and jumped overboard, he said. But roughly 200 of his shipmates weren't as fortunate.

They were killed in the explosion or burned to death.

The Wasp's survivors drifted in the Pacific Ocean for about four hours until they were rescued by an American destroyer.

He said the ship was so crowded that the sailors barely could move.

"I'm happy to be alive ... That's the main thing," he said. "I'm sorry for the ones who were lost."

Six and a half decades later, Martin, 85, was chosen to lay a wreath during a brief Memorial Day ceremony at Mount Lena United Methodist Church in Beaver Creek.

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Speakers read the names of close to 300 veterans from Beaver Creek as about 25 people looked on.

Some of the older people in attendance leaned on canes as a light rain fell.

Roger Stottlemyer, also a World War II veteran, said members of the Beaver Creek community last year placed in the church cemetery a stone memorial that honors all veterans, particularly those who gave the supreme sacrifice.

"May God bless them all," part of the memorial's inscription reads.

Stottlemyer said organizers of the Memorial Day celebration hoped future generations would carry the torch.

"It means a great deal," he said. "We had a couple of community guys who never came back."

People gathered in the church to eat lunch when the ceremony ended.

Martin and Stottlemyer sat side-by-side, reminiscing about World War II.

Stottlemyer said he fought in the Battle of the Bulge with the Army's 99th Infantry Division.

Eventually, the duo began discussing the conflict in Iraq.

Although both said they opposed the war, they were supportive of the troops fighting it.

"It shouldn't have happened," Stottlemyer said of the U.S. invasion. "I don't see how it's improving.

"Over a hundred (service personnel have) been killed this month ... "

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