Local vets recall war experiences on eve of holiday
Three local veterans shared their experiences Monday of when they served in the military, along with views of what Veterans Day means to them on the eve of the solemn holiday, Nov. 11.
U.S. Navy veteran Harry H. Beeman served in World War II.
He said Veterans Day should be a day when people take a minute and say a prayer for all those who have served in the military.
“Veterans Day means a day that we should all pause and give a thought to all the warriors and patriots that gave up their American way of life and went out to do what needed to be done to preserve all of our freedoms and give us a right to live in this beautiful country,” he said.
Beeman said millions of men were not as lucky as he was, for the fact that he fought for four years and then had the opportunity to live the rest of his life.
“To that I give thanks to God,” he said.
On Veterans Day, Beeman said he will have an easel set up at the VFW to display various posters of the war he was in. He wants to do this to show an insight of what it was like, along with providing more patriotism and support for the men of the war.
“I will be over at the VFW and welcoming people and telling them about my veteran friends,” Beeman said, adding that he hopes people will appreciate what freedom has cost Americans.
He explained that the experience during his service provided him with a great appreciation of all the freedom Americans have.
“I took away a great appreciation for all of our freedoms and what our country does for us,” Beeman said, adding that he learned how spoiled Americans are and how individuals do not realize what the “American freedom has cost our average fighting man.”
“It was the greatest privilege of my life and it was the main purpose of my life,” he said about serving in WWII. “I am so proud, that is the greatest achievement of my life.”
Beeman said that after he left the service, he became a firefighter. He saved between 200 and 300 people from burning buildings, which he said “was nothing like what I achieved in World War II.”
U.S. Army Infantry Division veteran Bob Rieser served in the Vietnam War. He is an Honor Guard captain and received a bronze star.
Rieser said Veterans Day is a celebration for veterans.
“It’s a day to celebrate, to be happy, to be proud and to be proud of yourself that you served your country,” he said.
Rieser said that although it is a day for celebration, he will never forget the 1,740 men who are still not accounted for.
He said that this year he will take part in an actual Vietnam patrol in full dress in Punta Gorda and at the Vietnam Memorial on McGregor Boulevard to help to celebrate veterans.
He said he has been with the Vietnam patrol group for 14 years now.
“It is my favorite bunch of guys,” Rieser said.
He said he is “real proud” of serving in the Army “because I served my country.”
Rieser said now that he is a member of the VFW, people will approach him and say “thank you for my freedom.” He thinks it is wonderful that people come up to him and say thank you.
He said that when he was greeted in Oakland, Calif., after he came home from the Vietnam War, it was quite an experience due to protesters chanting and throwing things when the military personnel unloaded from the airplanes.
“In my heart I forgave those people because they did not know what they were protesting. They had no idea what the soldiers were going through over there,” Rieser said. “If they were over there and experienced what we did, they would not have been protesting.
“It was nothing like it is today for military personnel coming home from the war,” he said.
Rieser said he has gone to the airport numerous times with the VFW to welcome military home from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
“It’s a great experience when you come off an airplane and you are welcomed by 300 people and American flags,” he said.
U.S. Air Force veteran Charles B. Saunders served in the Korean War.
Saunders said Veterans Day means a lot to him because people are finally honoring “our veterans.”
“Regardless if you are in combat or not, there it is a sacrifice that you make by going into the service and serving your country. You are giving up a large segment of your youth,” he said.
This year, Saunders said he will celebrate Veterans Day by walking or riding in the Cape Coral Veterans Day Parade. This year the parade will honor the Forgotten Veterans of the Korean War.
Saunders said he believes the service really helped him because he used his experience in the service to further his vocation.
He said he went into the service, not because of Americanism, but rather for job security because in the late 1940s the unemployment rate was high and it was difficult to find a job.
“I was always fascinated by aircraft so I went into the Air Force, there was no war going on at the time, it was a a necessity,” Saunders said.
“I took that experience of a flight engineer and crew chief into my career in aviation,” he said, adding that it gave him a great feeling about the Air Force.
Saunders worked in airport administration as an operation manager for many years after serving.
Saunders said flying was his hobby, so he owned a few aircrafts of his own with his brothers and friends.
“The most we ever spent on an airplane was $1,500,” he said, adding that when the price is split between five people, it is not that expensive.
“I don’t regret a day I spent in the Air Force,” Saunders said.