On Veterans Day, Friday Nov. 11, Grandvue Medical Facility of East Jordan hosted a ceremony and luncheon for its resident military veterans.
The highlight of the event included biographies of some of the military veterans currently living at Grandvue.
Here are some of those men’s stories.
BENNIE LEWIS, 92, Army
Bennie was drafted into the Army in 1943 at 18 years of age. He was raised on a small farm in Petoskey. The rural homestead was a natural prelude for his military service. “I was in the Remount Cavalry,” he said. “I trained horses and mules to be used as pack animals during World War II.”
He sadly recounts the fate of his first group of trained animals.
“I heard the ship they were loaded onto was torpedoed and went down. I felt bad—all that work for nothing.”
Private First Class Lewis was stationed in the United States as well as the Philippines and Luzon.
CARLTON “BUD” RAUCH, 91, Navy
In 1942, Bud quit school and joined the Navy.
“I was in the 11th grade in Detroit and it was boring. The war was exciting.”
For the next four years, Bud traveled the seas from San Diego to New Guinea, Okinawa and the Philippines. The New Liberty ship on which he served as a Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class carried bombs in its hull.
“We didn’t have much to do and we weren’t under constant bombardment,” he said. However, the ship sailed south and rounded Cape Horn after leaving the Panama Canal to avoid subs. After unloading the ship’s explosive cargo in South Africa, Bud and his mates went to Madagascar, Saudi Arabia, through the Suez Canal and unloaded more bombs in Haifa.
They anchored in Gibraltar before joining a convoy of destroyers to evade German submarines in the Atlantic.
Bud said he had a good mother who prayed for his safety. And he prayed, too.
“My shipmates could hear me pray. I was trying to live a Christian life aboard ship so I’d pray at the top of my voice and yell at God,” he said.
God must have heard him. Bud miraculously found his cousin—who was in the Army—on a beach in New Guinea.
“He hadn’t been home for three years. And, there he was playing cards with his Army buddies on the beach,” says Bud.
WILLARD MUMA, 80, Army
Willard Muma left his hometown of Elmira after he was drafted into the Army in 1961. He did his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and then served as a Spec 4 Squad Leader in the Infantry at Fort Ord, California.
He says he was stationed for a short time at Rhine am Main, Germany. But, despite good duty stations, Willard says, “I just wanted to get home.” Soon after his return, he married Mary Jeanette—a good reason to be home.
LEROY PICKETT, 94, Army
At age 21, Leroy Pickett was drafted into the Army.
“I was one of the lucky ones,” he said.
Indeed, he was. His service spanned the World War II years from 1944-1945. As a Private First Class, Leroy was stationed in Newport News, Virginia before spending the next 17 months in Louisiana. He moved to Michigan in 1987.
ALLEN LAWSON, 79, Navy
Allen Lawson proudly says, “ I joined the Navy in 1954 or 55 for eight years, three months and twenty-three days.”
He was assigned to the USS Francis Marion following Basic Training at the Great Lakes Naval Yard in Chicago.
Allen served on five different ships that went to the Caribbean, South America, Japan, Korea, North Africa and the Mediterranean. He was an Assault Boat Coxswain in charge of the Captain’s boat.
“I liked the Navy,” he said. “Being the captain’s boat coxswain, I had it pretty well made, had more freedom to do things. In North Africa, we did exercises: landing troops during the 60s. We were trying to keep it open.”
In 1958, a Navy Attack Transport entered the Great Lakes. This 2nd Class Boatswain Mate says, “ It was the first ship of its kind to come to the Great Lakes. We had one foot of clearance getting the Landing Ship into the canal leading to the Great Lakes.”
Allen married in Petoskey while he was still in the Navy.
“That’s why I did eight years,” he said. “Got married and didn’t have to reenlist.” Yet, this Boyne City resident proudly remembers his Navy years and adds, “If I had the opportunity to do it over again, I would, but with a little difference in the way I’d approach things.”
JAMES HOAG, 74, Army
James “JT” Hoag joined the Army in the 1960s. He was 19 years old. This Private First Class, a Detroit native, spent three years at Fort Knox, Kentucky, as a Radio Teletype Operator. James was assigned to the Infantry’s Company B and worked in the Signal Corps when stationed at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
Following his military service, JT worked with another Detroit native, Diana Ross.
“I am a first tenor and I sang with her,” he said. This fan of Motown also had his own group, The Modernistics.
JAMES “KOZ” KOSSEK, 81, Army
James, better known as Koz, was inducted into the Army April 18th, 1955. This Detroit native spent three years in the south Pacific. When asked about his military experience, Koz smiles and says, “I played baseball in Hawaii.” However, this Private First Class was also stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado and worked at the atomic bomb proving grounds.
His service, obviously, involved more than the pitching mound. Koz married following his return to the mainland in 1957.
BRUCE WOODCOCK, 91, Army
Many East Jordan locals know Bruce from sitting in his barber shop on Main Street. But, there’s more to this East Jordan native than scissors and shaving cream.
In 1943, Bruce was drafted out of high school into the Army Air Force. He served in the 20th Air Force Engineering Squad.
As a corporal, Bruce built air strips and base buildings on Guam during World War II.
Bruce received the WWII Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Medal and the Bronze Star. After returning to Northern Michigan, Bruce finished high school, worked as a seaman and owned a barber shop for 29 years.
JAMES FIEDLER, 84, Navy
Holt, Michigan was James Fiedler’s hometown. And, Quincy, Massachusetts became his home port when he joined the Navy during the Korean Conflict.
James sailed the Mediterranean from 1950 to 1954 aboard the USS Salem. He worked on the ship’s pipe system. Following his military service, James attended Michigan State University on the G.I. Bill.
According to Ann Fiedler, James received more than an education at MSU. She says, “I was also attending Michigan State. And, my older sister was married to his older brother.” Ann and James, with much in common, married in 1956.
RICHARD WRIGHT, 88, Army
Always an aviator, Richard left his father’s bakery in Grand Rapids and enlisted in the Army in 1959. He attended jump school at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and served as an 82nd Airborne Division Jump Master. As a paratrooper and helicopter mechanic, Richard’s orders took him to the Dominican Republic during the Island’s rebellion. He then joined the 101st Screaming Eagles and, in 1965, was stationed in Viet Nam where he was field support for the HU-1B helicopter.
“I checked out the Hueys when I left Fort Bragg and checked those same helicopters in on the other side of the Pacific in Viet Nam,” said Wright. As a First Sergeant, he was stationed in Phan Rang but often moved to the forward area. His daughter remembers listening to her father’s voice on the family’s tape recorder.
“My brother, mother and I would make tapes for Dad and he would record over the same tape to describe a little of what his life was like living in a tent worlds away. We could always hear helicopters in the background,” she said.
Richard was awarded the US Army Commendation Medal.
On his stateside return, he became an FAA certified inspector for Northwest Airlines.