MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH)– World War II veterans are precious resource that is quickly disappearing, but a few were able to get together Thursday morning to celebrate one of their own.
Of course, you get a group of war veterans together and they will tell you stories.
“Guam, Saipan, Tinian, the Marshall Islands,” Bill DeLuca rattled off the places he went during the war. “We took supplies and picked up wounded at Iwo Jima.”
Bill Godburn talked about the time he was manning an anti-aircraft gun when a German plane started dropping bombs.
“There were two explosions. It just about knocked me off my feet, and the guy who was supposed to feed me the ammunition, he took off on me,” Godburn said.
Joe Catala was in the Pacific, too, when a fellow sailor told him that the anticipated invasion of the Japanese homeland would not be happening after all.
“He says, ‘Oh no, they got a big bomb on one of the islands.’ Well, who ever heard of a big bomb?” Catala asked. “And then, we were lucky.”
All these veterans are part of the Meriden Antique Veterans Honor Guard, completely volunteer organization made up of honorably discharged vets from all wars. It is not just a social organization. It has an important mission. When a veteran dies in Connecticut, they make sure that there is always an honor guard there for the ceremony.
“The military funerals are our biggest thing. We’ve done 1,703 since 9-11. but because of this virus, we’re down to 30 this year.”
Of course, over the years, they have lost many of their own as well. Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, estimates are there are fewer than 400,000 left. The main event of this latest meeting was to celebrate one of them.
Henry Muszynski is about to turn 101-years-old. He served in the war’s first glider regiment.
“We had five missions, and number five was supposed to be going after Hitler in the Swiss mountains,” Muszynski said.
That mission did not happen, but nearly seven decades of marriage did, once he got home. So did continuing service with the Antique Veterans, proving that just like antiques, World War II veterans get more valuable with age.