May 8, 1945, officially marked the end of World War II in Europe and is known a V-E (Victory in Europe) Day. Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2591 wanted to pay tribute to veterans who served not only in Europe, but during the entire war.
Gary Gill, post service officer, led a short program on Wednesday with six World War II veterans in attendance. Gill, a Vietnam veteran, used to talk to his father, a World War II veteran, about the wars they fought in. They’d look through old yearbooks and discuss who went in the service and who didn’t.
His father would say, “I guess that’s one of the big differences between your generation and my generation. We never asked that question because we all served.”
Charlie Bell, of Sedalia, was 18 when he went into the Army. He served from 1943 to 1945 in Europe with the 25th Reconnaissance Cavalry as a gunner on a light tank. Before he joined the service, he had never been out of Missouri.
“Most people don’t realize all of us were real young. When they took us in, they didn’t tell you where you was going, how long you were going to be there and that we can keep you as long as we need you,” he said. “I went and I’m glad I got through it.”
Marion Schmidt, of Sedalia, was 23 when he went into the service. He was a combat infantryman in a mortar platoon with the 20th Armored Division in Europe. The reason he attended the program was, “I wanted to see some of the other fellows who were in the war with me,” he said.
Otis Thomas, of Sedalia, is a Marine Corps veteran who served in the South Pacific and fought in Japan. His unit was relieved when they heard the war in Europe had ended.
“We were going to get some help finally in the Pacific,” he said. He served from 1943 to 1946.
Dick Crawford, a Navy gunner’s mate, served aboard the USS Haggard in the South Pacific for a little over two years.
“On April 29, 1945, we got hit by kamikazes just south of Okinawa and I was one of the survivors,” he said.
George Whitman, of Sedalia, was a mechanic in the Navy. He served from 1942 to 1945 and spent most of his time in South America. When he went into the service, he had never been out of Florida. He recalled once he left, he saw snow for the first time.
Leo Richards served with the Army in Europe from 1941 to 1945. He made it as far as Berlin.
“The reason I came was to see these fellows right here,” he said.
The men reminisced about their war adventures and talked about everything from their first train ride to basic training to being in battle.
“The appreciation that we have for your service, the things that you did for us. It could be a totally different world,” Gill said. “Tom Brokaw hit it square. You guys are the greatest generation and we appreciate everything. That’s why we wanted to have a remembrance today with V-E Day.”
The post plans to have another ceremony in December to mark the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.