In honor of Veterans Day, we asked some of the youngest and oldest military members and veterans living in Central Ohio to share their stories.
In honor of Veterans Day, we asked some of the youngest and oldest military members and veterans living in Central Ohio to share their stories. -As told to Shyla Nott
20, Navy hospital corpsman
Miller lives in Pickerington and currently is based at the Naval Operations Support Center in Columbus.
I went to college for a year to play football but had to get shoulder surgery and sit out for a whole year. After that, I didn't really know what I wanted to do, but I always kind of knew that I'd join [the Navy]. I've been in for about 10 months.
In the Navy, we do a lot of simple stuff, like learning to fold your clothes the right way. Now, for a normal person, you're thinking, "Why does that matter in the military?" Well, if you can be trained to fold your clothes properly and have the discipline to do it a certain way, then you can be trained to work a multimillion dollar machine. You learn a lot of discipline and attention to detail.
I'd say that as a corpsman, we have to take a lot of pride in our job because we're the ones who send people home. When we're here, we're taking care of veterans. We're constantly giving back and helping people. I think that's what I really like about it. We're always taking care of our own, and then when we're on deployments we have to save others' lives as well, whether it's the enemy or our guys. It's not just kill, kill, kill for corpsmen-we have to be a lifesaver.
After this contract, I want to go with the Marines and be a Fleet Marine Force hospital corpsman. They go with the Marines on deployments. They're taught field combat and how to do field medicine.
Being a young guy in the military, you feel you haven't done anything. But in all reality, you've done all that your country has asked you so far. I've done all that I've been told to do.
27, 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines
2nd Marine Division
Werner was stationed in Anah, Iraq, for seven months. He's currently enrolled in the physician assistant program at Ohio Dominican University.
I remember being in boot camp and my drill instructor mentioned, "You may not understand everything we're doing right now, but I promise you the day will come when you do understand." In boot camp they're yelling at you, screaming at you, giving you all these intense stress situations so when you are in combat, when rounds are flying by your head, you're not freaking out. I can still do my job and do what I'm supposed to do.
I was one of two radio operators, and I was 19 years old. At first, it was overwhelming because I would be more in harm's way, but this is what I signed up for and trained for.
During a typical day, I sit on post, eat powdered eggs, get a little workout in, go on patrol-either a security patrol or a meet-and-greet-sit on post again, possibly sleep. On the fourth day, we were doing turnover with the [logistics assistance representative], and we were standing on the roof and my buddy ended up getting shot in the neck. I thought, "Does this set the scene for the next seven months?"
We would carry these book bags that blocked certain frequencies, like [improvised explosive devices] or [remote-control improvised explosive devices]. They would use washer and dryer timers, stove timers, cells phones ... hook them up, and there'd be someone watching you who would call the cell phone and the frequency would set it off. Even now, some of the issues have carried over since being back-I remember when I was over there walking down one street past a big pile of rocks, just waiting for it to blow up.
Every day it was the same stuff, but you can't get complacent. Complacency kills. I feel it was more like a mental growth, being there. Being in those situations in a completely different culture, it helps you really appreciate what you do have versus what you don't.
91, World War II B-17 navigator
Pohorilla, who lives in Canal Winchester, served during World War II as a first lieutenant after he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet in 1942 when he was 18 years old. He completed 35 missions as a member of B-17G bomber crew, serving with the 385th Bomb Group in the 8th Air Force in England under the command of Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle.
Our first mission as a crew was the Daimler-Benz factory, which of course makes nice cars, but then they were making tanks and tank engines. We bombed specific targets in the daytime. The East Air Force flew in groups of 36 aircraft. It was in a formation they called the "combat box," developed by Curtis LeMay.
When you're young, you think you're invincible, but it doesn't take too long before you become very humble. My ball turret gunner had the worst job. After one mission, he said, "I think I have the 8th Air Force record for the most Hail Mary's over the target."
I saw all of the major industrial areas in Germany. The major emphases when I was flying were transportation centers, railroad marshaling yards, but the biggie was the oil industry. Germany had no real oil assets-they had lots of coal.
On our 18th mission, we were bombing the synthetic oil plant at Merseburg outside of Leipzig. I went to that place five times. On Nov. 25, 1944, we went back to Merseberg again. That time we got hit pretty badly. We lost two engines, but we deliberately stayed with the formation because German fighters liked to pick off the stragglers that left the formation. Well, the B-17 can fly on one engine. It's a great aircraft. It's why I'm here. If I had flown anything else, I wouldn't be here.
But when you decrease the number of engines, your fuel consumption goes through the roof. We stayed with the formation until I was certain we were over liberated territory in Belgium. Instead of following our flight path, I gave the pilot a direct heading to Dover. We never made it. We had to crash land.
We threw everything out that wasn't nailed down to lighten the load. We got everybody in crash-landing position. Finally, the pilot brought her into a freshly plowed farm field, dirt flying all over the place. She came in nice ... great flying.
93, World War II veteran,197th Anti-Aircraft Artillery, Automatic Weapons Battalion
Kistler, who lives in Lancaster, served in five major campaigns, including the Battle of Normandy (D-Day) at Omaha Beach, the Battle of the Bulge and Hürtgen Forest, and was issued a Silver Star for each of the five campaigns. While fighting across France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, Kistler also aided in the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp.
We were out in the field 24/7, rain or shine-never in a building. We were in foxholes right out in the weather all the time. One of the first things we had to do was pull our guns in and dig a hole. We had to set our guns up, then we had telephone wire we had to run. We had a hard time because there were only seven of us. When it was daylight, we didn't fire on bombers; we fired on low-strafing aircraft. We guarded ammunition dumps, hospitals, artillery landing strips, bridges.
They postponed D-Day because it was so rough. We got on our boat and got all of our equipment on, and we were supposed to go on D-Day, but the weather was so bad they didn't think they were even going to be able to make it. Then we got a little break in the weather. Eisenhower was afraid if he postponed it, nobody was going to be ready for it the next time and the Germans were going to find out when it was. So he said, "We got a little break; let's go with it."
But it was terrible. Everybody was sick. We were just out there bobbing around, bobbing around, bobbing around. We were wet and cold, heaving up. Everybody was sick when they went out. It was a horrible situation. A lot of them boys didn't have a chance. The waves just hit them. A lot of them drowned before they ever made it to the beach. After we lost our halftrack, a boat came over, and we got right back on the boat. Then the next track went in, and that's the way we got on the beach. But we had an awful time getting up that hill.
In fact, we weren't making any headway, and they quit sending troops in at 10 o'clock. Maybe one or two would get up the hill, and the rest of them would get killed. We finally got enough troops up there that we could take the tunnels, and they wouldn't have direct fire down on us. After we got them off of the hill, then they had to lob shells over the hill. That's when they said the hill was secured.
We didn't sleep for about two days. We were wet and cold from the water, but you didn't even know it because you had so much stuff on your mind that you just went with it.