The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

November 11, 2012

Several generations share war stories at gathering

JOHNSTOWN — Staff at The Atrium didn’t have to look far to find a veteran to thank Sunday.

The Main Street care center’s resident roster includes 14 vets who served during three different wars.

But as many of them shared war stories and service memories in an Atrium dining room Sunday, it wasn’t long before their attention turned to a new generation of soldiers.

“God bless them,” said Robert Crookston, 94, an Air Force veteran who served during World War II. “With all of the talk and turmoil with the election, it seems like they are being forgotten over there in Afghanistan. It’s them who should be getting all of the attention (for Veterans Day).”

“Their job isn’t an easy one ... and they are doing all they can,” he added.

Many of them would know.

Joe Hanzek, 85, said he drove tanks during the Korean War.

Mike Lihvark served two years in the Pacific theater as a Navy Seabee, some of that time on islands that were under attack, he said.

Carl Jeske Jr., 91, flew B-24 bombers in war-torn England during World War II.  

He said he made it through 18 missions for the Air Force before returning to Johnstown and eventually becoming a police officer.

“We were lucky to come back alive,” Jeske said. “But back then, we weren’t scared heading into it. You don’t think about death when you are young.”

“To us,” he added, “we were just doing our jobs.”

World War II was a much different war than the ones Americans have been fighting the past 10 years, he said.

Jeske said he and fellow soldiers fought a uniformed, “more civilized” enemy in cities and on farmland not much different than the ones they knew back home.

Today, “it’s a whole different story.”

“They don’t know what’s going to come next.  It’s not Great Britain or Germany over there,” he said of Afghanistan.  

“Those guys should be getting all the thanks in the world,” Jeske said.

“They should be in our thoughts and prayers,” Crookston added.

The Atrium honored its veterans last week by posting photographs of each of them and listing their branch of service in the care home.

Other area nursing homes, including the Golden Living Center, 349 Vo-Tech Drive, Richland Township, also honored their veterans during the past week.

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