Wednesday, January 16, 2013

WW2 Vets Still Optimistic!

NOTE: Today is Part Two of my ongoing series on veterans who live in a local assisted living center. Read the first story @WW2 Veterans, Listen to Their Stories.
DSC_0002Wow! Did I have some great conversations yesterday!
Tuesday morning was my second series of interviews at The Bridges retirement community, where my new friend Janet Noah (community liaison) introduced me to some more genuine American heroes.
I spoke with a Navy cook who served on two submarines, one U.S. and one German; I chatted with a steel expert from Boston who loaded planes with fuel and munitions on the USS Essex aircraft carrier; and I listened to some great stories from a career Marine who not only saw action in the WW2 Pacific Theater, but fought the Chinese in North Korea and was eyewitness to the nuclear test at Bikini Atoll.
  • I promise to post links to the full stories when they appear in the Osprey Observernewspaper, but for now I’ll share some highlights.
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Coggins (retired)
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Coggins (retired)
ALWAYS FAITHFUL: I could have happily talked with Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Coggins all day. Born in 1918, “Tom” graduated from the Naval Academy just a few days prior to the attack at Pearl Harbor. By the time the smoke cleared he was deployed to the Pacific Theater and found himself dragging an anti-aircraft gun up impossible terrain in Samoa. He spent the bulk of the war involved with beach landings, building airstrips (under fire), and commanding the Marine compliment on an aircraft carrier.
Tom may be 94-years of age, but he still wakes up each day with the firm conviction that he is well-equipped to face any potential situation he may find himself in. And it’s my personal belief that if an al-Qaeda terror cell suddenly activated and tried to storm The Bridges retirement community, they’d probably be met and neatly dispatched by Tom Coggins before they made it halfway across the lobby!
DSC_0005THE BELLY OF “DER BEAST:” Joseph Hayden was still in Submariner School when WW2 ended. He was assigned to the USS Sennet as a cook and enjoyed the thrill of traversing the Panama Canal three times.
But his real claim to fame was the unique opportunity to serve on the German U-Boat  ”Der Beast;” the submarine (U-3008) had been captured off Long Island. The American crew found movie-house ticket stubs on board that proved the German sailors had prowled New York City on more than one occasion.
Joe Pottle
Joe Pottle
COAST-TO-COAST: Airman First Class Joe Pottle reinvented himself many times over the course of his lifetime. He was responsible for the steel work that supports the Prudential Tower in Boston; he started a successful company in Portland, Oregon; he lived as a missionary in Brazil for over a decade; and he served this country as a sailor in both Japan and Korea.
OPTIMISM: Each veteran shared a story that is unique in terms of experience, family, personality, and the many directions life took beyond the wearing of the uniform.
There was one question, however, that all three answered in exactly the same manner. When I concluded each interview with, “Are you still optimistic about the future?” To a man all three veterans said, unequivocally, “YES!”
from the Internet
from the Internet
Essentially, these heroes who put everything on the line for freedom cannot imagine a scenario in which “The American Spirit” will not prevail.
“There will always be idiots in Washington,” one man said; “but The American People will come through, they always do.”
Stay tuned for more stories – DEREK

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