Visit to veterans revives thoughts of World War II
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Many accounts of World War II are neatly tied up in films and books. However, more than 1 million veterans of the war still survive, out of 16 million who served. Sixty years after the war, the horrors of those battles still haunt veterans including Patrick Pitts, 88, a resident at Camas’ Mountainview House Assisted Living.
Pitts was one of three veterans honored Saturday as part of an open house event at the assisted living center. Army Col. Dan Kern presented Pitts; Gerald Newberry, 88; and a 92-year-old veteran whose name The Columbian is withholding due to a court-issued no-contact order, with a Joint Force Headquarters Washington National Guard unit coin. Newberry was in the hospital and couldn’t be present for the event.
Pitts, originally from Tigard, Ore., served in the Pacific as an Army machine-gunner for nearly three years between 1942 and 1945. He still can’t talk about the experience without weeping.
“You don’t have any idea what hell we went through out there,” Pitts said.
Pitts was distressed by the ceremony Saturday.
“You don’t want to keep reminding yourself,” he said. “I was a machine-gunner. Just think about how many men I killed. We went from island to island, from New Guinea to the Philippines.”
After the war, he worked at the Crown Zellerbach mill, now called Georgia-
Pacific, and retired from the company.
Newberry served in the Navy in the Atlantic during the war.
The third veteran was also in the Navy, serving for more than four years in the North Atlantic and then in Pensacola, Fla., during the war. He said he was on anti-submarine patrol during the war and escorted convoys among the United States, England and Russia. He went on to serve in the reserves for 17 years after the war and retired from the Burlington Northern Railroad.
The entertainment at Saturday’s open house was provided by Clark County Veterans Therapeutic Court. The court reduces sentences and helps to rehabilitate veterans charged with misdemeanors that were fueled by a problem with substance abuse or accompanying mental illness. The program provides a treatment plan and a peer mentor.
The veterans therapeutic court honors veterans at all its fundraisers and events, said Clark County District Court Judge Darvin Zimmerman.
In their 80s and 90s, the three men are among the last of a vanishing generation. About 1,000 World War II veterans die each day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The 92-year-old said he couldn’t remember the last time he was honored for his service.
“It’s intriguing to me,” he said of the ceremony. “I haven’t experienced this for a while.”