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Sep. 14, 2015  War on Terror   Transformation   News Products   Press Resources   Images   Websites   Contact Us 
WWII Vets Share Stories with Today’s Troops
By U.S. Army Spc. Allison Churchill / 4 th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office

FORT HOOD, Texas, Nov. 10, 2004 – World War II veterans spent time remembering fallen comrades while getting a glimpse of the future of the Army during a recent reunion held on and around Fort Hood.

Many of the visiting “Texas Cohorts,” members of the 78th Infantry Division, (now an exercise division,) said they enjoyed the chance to share stories with modern soldiers, as part of their 11th reunion.

The two groups of soldiers shared stories on the different conditions for the troops who served during World War II and those currently serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“A bottle of water would warm up in about 10 minutes over there,” Spc. Kenneth LaPoint, grenadier, Co. B, told George Rivett, Irving, Texas, of an experience in Iraq.

“We’d have to wait for the water to thaw before we could drink it,” answered Rivett, who was in the 78th’s 778th Ordinance unit, based in Germany. “We didn’t worry about going thirsty though. If we wanted water, we just had to pick up snow.”

The veterans said they were impressed by the advancements in military training and quality of life.

Photo, caption below.

Celso Torres, a 78th Infantry Division veteran, discusses Army past and present with Spc. Mathhew Vee, Bradley gunner, Co. B, 2nd Battalion, 8 th Infantry Regiment, at a recent luncheon at Theodore Roosevelt Hall. Photo by U.S. Army Pvt. Michael A. Molinaro, 4 th Inf. Div.

“In 11 years, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it because I’ve seen the progress. You have better living quarters compared to 40 men up and 40 men downstairs; you have a decent place to eat. I see how you people are educated,” Rivett said. “What you do, a lot of people couldn’t do it. Meeting our comrades, talking to younger soldiers, I feel we’re in good hands.”

Other veterans agreed.

“It’s so efficient,” said Bryon O. Loader, formerly of 78th’s Company C, 311 Infantry. “Everybody seems to know their job and do it well.”

“It’s so sophisticated. I don’t think I’d make it,” Sgt. 1st Class (Ret.) Celso Torres, of Company K, 309 Inf., 78th Inf. Div.

Other tables discussed smaller changes in the Army.

As J.D. Spraggins, of Jacksonville, Texas, shared his experiences as part of King Company, 309 Inf., Pvt. Robert Sandoval, sawgunner, Co. B, noted from Spraggins’ nametag, he would have thought he was part of “Kilo” company. The men discovered the phonetic alphabet had changed in 60 years.

Photo, caption below.

Brig. Gen. Nolan Bivens, assistant division commander, 4 th Infantry Division, (left), talks with Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Jack Hemingway, 78 th Inf. Div., (right), and Lt. Col. Donald Hick, 4 th Inf. Div. during a recent veterans reunion day at Fort Hood. Photo by U.S. Army Pvt. Michael A. Molinaro, 4 th Inf. Div.

Lt. Col. Donald Hick, 4 th Inf. Div., who escorted the veterans, said he enjoyed hearing the stories. “Some of them are so comical, yet deadly.”

The veterans also had a chance to see the technological advances in equipment when they visited Sugar Loaf Range to observe soldiers from 299th Engineer Battalion, 4th Inf. Div., train on their M2A2 Bradleys.

Searcy Larabee, formerly of 552nd AAA Bn., 78th Inf. Div., watching the first tank fire, was curious of the new role of engineers.

“You don’t build stuff anymore, do you?” Larabee asked.

“We do, Sir. We’re still engineers, still build bridges and blow bridges up,” Capt. Kenneth Reed, 299th Eng. Bn, replied.

For the veterans and their guests, soldiers in hot tanks and armor riding across the Iraqi desert was the polar opposite of serving in the European campaign.

“It looks like it would be so hot and uncomfortable. I don’t know how you do it,” said Sherri Steward, daughter of William “Doddie” Steward, one of the visiting veterans.

“You do it because you have to do it,” Spc. Eric Ross, medic, Co. B, 2nd Bn., 8th Inf., explained.

After visiting the range, the veterans stopped at the 4th Inf. Div. Operation Iraqi Freedom Memorial.

“It’s a nice memorial,” said Steward, who was in Co. K, 309th Inf. His buddies noticed a resemblance between the 4th Inf. Div. memorial and the 78th Inf. Div. memorial.

“ What you did for the country, we can never thank you enough,” Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman, commanding general, 4th Inf. Div., told the group. He added that by never complaining, but just going ahead and fighting, World War II veterans “are our greatest generation.”

“It’s time to remember friends – brothers who gave their all,” Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Thomas Preston said when closing the reunion ceremonies. “The Army has a feeling of brotherhood unlike any other in society. It crosses generations.”
Last Updated:
12/01/2005, Eastern Daylight Time
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