Vets share stories of war, fun
November 11, 2005
Douglas W. Hendon remembers Aug. 9, 1942, as well as he remembers any day. The World War II veteran was a crew member on the USS Vincennes the night it was sunk by Japanese torpedoes and shells during the Battle of Savo Island.
Hendon, a Florida resident in Aspen to visit his daughter, didn’t hesitate to tell about 150 people at Aspen’s Veterans Day ceremony just how apt it is to describe war as “hell.” Approximately 700 of Hendon’s shipmates died during the attack or in the ocean that night.”It took a lot of my friends when that ship went down,” he said.But Hendon and the half dozen or so other veterans who took the microphone outside the Pitkin County Courthouse on Friday, also shared some of the lighter moments about serving in war.
Sherry Young, a veteran of the Cold War who served in the Air Force from 1976 to 1985, one of the military’s least popular eras, told about the day the men under her command took one of her orders as literally as possible. A lieutenant at the time, she had about 10 or so men under her command erecting a massive antenna in England. She said one of her constant commands – daily, to each and every soldier – was that safety gear had to be worn at all times.One day near the end of the project Young was summoned from her desk with some urgency. She hustled outside worried about whatever crisis she would have to cope with, only to find her men at their work stations on the antenna. Young drew laughs from the crowd when she let out a sigh and said the guys were fully decked out in their safety gear – but not a single shred of clothing but their safety gear.
The ceremony Friday morning took about an hour. Veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War and the half dozen or so military actions since Grenada were present. Fifth-graders from Debbie Kreutzer’s class at Aspen Middle School sang “The Star Spangled Banner,” “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless the U.S.A.””I never knew being a veteran would be so important,” said Aspen resident and World War II veteran June Kirkwood. “We just did what we had to do.”