By Whitney Vickers
FAIRBORN — Tears rolled and smiles grew as 10 World War II veterans were presented last Friday with medallions and the opportunity to share war stories.
“[While] this is Memorial Day weekend and we should absolutely honor our fallen over the course of our country, it’s important to honor those who are still with us,” said State Rep. Rick Perales.
Gerhard Martin Johnson served as a private for the U.S. Army from 1941 until 1945. In his time, he was involved in the Normandy Invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. After the war ended, he worked as a mechanic for a Cadillac dealership until his retirement.
“I appreciate everything you’ve done for me,” Johnson said after Perales, Moore and Fairborn Municipal Judge Beth Root placed the medallion over his head.
Rolla Edward Malan served as a machinist’s mate second class for the U.S. Navy from 1940 until 1946. He lived through Pearl Harbor and told ceremony attendees about the experience. After the war, he worked for varying companies and retired from the U.S. Postal Service.
“It was exciting and then it was scary, then it got scarier and even scarier,” Malan said about Pearl Harbor. “After that, we got mad. By that time, most of the damage was done.”
Paul Sibble served as a sergeant for the U.S. Army from 1946 until 1949. He saw the Austrian Occupation Force. After leaving the service, he married and earned a degree in engineering. He was unable to make it to the ceremony, while recovering from a torn knee.
Elmo Ted Lochtefeld served the U.S. Navy from 1944 until 1946 as a signalman second class. He brought a flag with him that flew on the USS Canfield during the battle of Iwo Jima, which he experienced.
John Stukenborg served the U.S. Navy from 1943 until 1946 as a gunners mate third class. He was included as part of the Navy Armed Guard, aboard ship convoys that would deliver troops and supplies to England, New Zealand and Hawaii. His son was present to accept the honor on his behalf. After the war, Stukenborg worked for the National Cash Register company out of Dayton until his retirement.
William Pershing served the U.S. Army from 1943 until 1946 as a private. He received three bronze stars and a conduct medal during his service. He earned a degree in physics from The Ohio State University and worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a physicist until he retired. His wife and daughter were present to accept the medallion on his behalf.
Robert Mayne served the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1943 until 1946 as a private, stationed at the Pacific Theatre near Hawaii. After leaving the service, he worked for varying companies but eventually moved to Chicago. However, upon the commencement of the Korean War, he moved back to Dayton and started his own sales representative business. While he did not choose to speak in front of the crowd during the ceremony, his family pointed out that he can tell war stories for hours at a time.
David Penrod served the U.S. Marine Corps from 1943 until 1950 as a corporal. He served the Pacific Theatre, participating in the Battles of Guam, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Palaue Islands. When ceremony officials read his name, Penrod stood, which displayed his uniform, and later told the story of how he joined the Marines.
“I had a hard time getting into the Marine Corps,” Penrod said. “When I went to volunteer, they said ‘we want a few good men, not any little boys. Get out of here’ I stuck around all day and when they were ready to close up, [the recruiter] asked if I was still there. I said ‘yes, I want to be a Marine.’ He said ‘we’ve told you twice we don’t want you. Go join the Boy Scouts.’ I said ‘sir, I want to be a Marine.’ So he said ‘I’ll make a deal with you: if you come back tomorrow, I’ll have the doctor examine you and if he can’t find anything wrong with you, I’ll make you a Marine.’ ”
“I went back the next day and the doctor took me in the back room, took off all my clothes, pushed and pulled. He finally told me to get dressed and he said we’d go talk to the recruiter,” Penrod added. “The doctor said ‘he’s not very big, but we can’t find anything wrong with him.’ The recruiter told me to raise my right hand and repeat after him, then he swore me in as a Marine and he said ‘there, you got your wish — you’re now a Marine, but you’re going to regret this day for as long as you live.’ I guess I out-foxed him.”
Dr. Lynn Wolaver served the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1944 until 1946 as a sergeant. He served the European Theatre as well as on aircraft that dropped paratroopers and supplies. Upon returning from the war, he earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees and later served the City of Fairborn and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where he retired. He was recently inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.
Baylor Kirk served the U.S. Navy from 1943 until 1946 as a electricians mate third class. He served the European and Pacific Theatres aboard the USS Lloyd, a destroyer escort. Kirk saw the Battle of Okinawa. He retired from the Frigidaire division of General Motors. He brought with him a flag that flew on the USS Lloyd during the Battle of Okinawa.
“What I really believe [the Greatest Generation] did for my generation and the young people coming up is set the greatest example,” said former Director of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Lt. Gen. (Ret.) C.D. Moore. “It’s a great generation, but it’s the greatest example of what we should do to do our duty.”