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I Served During World War II

For three years, I served in the Pacific under General Douglas MacArthur. Due to my 1st sergeant rank, I had 244 men under my supervision. Numerous men were killed during the war and tried to take care of each other. Americans and Japanese were there!

When I was a youth, our family, the Robillards, lived in Lowell, Mass. Mom only spoke French, which was okay for the Lowell schools, but when we moved to Derry, N.H., only English was spoken. After completing sixth grade, I went to work. My two sisters and one brother also left school at an early age.

Horseshoe was a favorite pastime for all of us children and our friends. Making friends and helping people was always what desired to do. The whole world and everyone in it are my friends!

I was issued an automobile license when I was 16 years of age. I was permitted to drive a gray ford with a rumble seat- the speed limit was 20 miles an hour! A long, long time ago, Dad bought a Model T. Dad died at the age of 65 years.

I married my sweetheart, Jeannette, and we became parents of three boys and a girl. One of my sons was killed in Vietnam; he was only 18 years of age.

I was a carpenter. I made, sold and gave away numerous wooden tables. We were a Catholic family and we lived in Derry. Now I am a widower, I need lots of rest and sleep. Why? I am awake and out of bed at 3:00 a.m.

I’ve faithfully served as a volunteer at our Manchester, N.H. VAMC for 37 years. I arrive here at 5:30 a.m. six or seven days a week, I’m stationed at the outpatient section of our hospital. Making coffee and accepting and distributing delivered newspapers are part of my daily volunteer chores. I couldn’t live without this very worthwhile contribution to our great U.S. They need me, and I need them!

Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother

We grew up in the hollow of a small rural town with one store, one post office, one bank and one signal light. We had 13 in our family but those were the days when it didn’t cost much to feed a large family and most people grew food in the garden and kept chickens. We also butchered hogs each year. My mother did housekeeping for rich families in the area. My father drove a brick-and block truck to help pay our schooling, clothes and recreation supplies.

My mother and father were loving parents and there wasn’t anything that they wouldn’t do for someone in need. They instilled going to church on Sundays and we all had to be on our best behavior because how we acted reflected on them. Surely we didn’t want our privileges taken away for acting up in church or even in the neighborhood. They believed in discipline. I got whipping and that was enough for me. They would only whip your bottom but the pain lasted a couple days.

They believed in God and they love each one of us in his preciousness. My mother would sing the gospel music as she cooked in the kitchen and when she was cleaning the house. It made me feel loved each and every day. My father was quiet most of the time until he had to call us out for being too loud, or if the boys were in an argument over toys or girls, or if the girls squabbled over clothes and boyfriends.

We always had fish and fried potatoes on Friday. The rest of the family would always come by to pay their respects. All of my mother’s brothers and sisters would come by bring her things and she would give them food from our garden and clothes that had been outgrown. My father’s brother would come to help him build additional rooms on the house, help with the garden or to work on the cars.

Our parents would give all of us a little spending money to go to the store but we would have to be doing well in school. They rewarded us with money or something that we wanted if we had done a good thing. We didn’t always get rewarded because we weren’t always on our best behavior and we knew it when we weren’t. Mother tried to speak on our behalf but father would stand his ground. He really loved us and we knew he loved us all because he treated us all the same way. Mother was a little different than father, she would allow us more leeway.

My oldest brother died and it really tore my mother up. She would cry a lot and she would no longer sing, but father stood strong for her. We all came together for her but she had lost her firstborn and that was more than she could bear.

After a short illness, father was taken home to be with God and Mother was left without him. She fell deeper into depression and started to sit by herself on the porch in her favorite rocking chair. It took God to bring her out of the deep depression. Her faith in God jump started her life again. She got up one morning and started cleaning the house and singing her gospel songs.

She got us through those tough times and we all went on to do good thing with our lives. We owe it all to the wonderful parents who gave us rules and a good moral code that remains with each of us to this day. So, I thank God and my mother and father for believing in us. God bless all good parents in America and around the world.

By Charles L. Carey
VA Medical Center- Martinsburg, WV
Typist: Joanna Rench

Thunderbird Down!

While I was in the Air Forces at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., I was an aircraft mechanic. Different types of aircraft and squadrons were situated in rows on the flight line. The red, white and blue thunderbird squadron was on the line next to the row of aircraft in which I was a crew chief. I envied the mechanics in the thunderbird squadron. When those beautiful planes went out on a mission, both the mechanics and pilots moved like clockwork. The air shows were so perfect. They were awesome and breathtaking. There were times when they were gone on trips for performances.

Then on the fateful day, January 18,1982, while practicing for air show, four aircraft were performing a diamond shape pattern. They climbed several thousand feet and then after a backward loop, headed down at more than 400 m.ph., and leveled off at about 100 feet for a line abreast-loop. There was a malfunction in the lead plane. Each plane fallowed the lead plane, one after the other plowing into the ground, killing all fours pilots in instantly.

After this accident, there was a lot of talk about the price of the planes that were lots – that was what people focused on , about how much it would cost to replace the planes. There was also a lot of talk about how much time it would take to reorganize this unit and retrain pilots to fly different planes.

Not very many people spoke of these three captains and the major who died in the tragedy. How would you put a price on a person’s life? How do you put a price on a family’s loss? There isn’t a time limit that one can put on someone’s life. Only God has the right to do that. Sometimes we fail to see the big picture in a tragedy like this.

Nurse Ratchet’s Mistake

by Gregory J. Topliff
(published in Veterans’ Voices Spring 2003 issue)

Come my comrades and you will hear
about an infamous nurse that all did fear.

She entered the ward all dressed in white,
screaming, “Attention! Attention! Attention!” with all
of her might.

“Get out of those beds
you sleepy heads!
I’m here to bring you a new respect,
for God and country, you bunch of rejects!

“Get up! Get up! you lazy bums,
you service wrecks, you low-class scum!”

As I looked to my left and back to my right,
all stood at attention shaking with fright.
They stood there in fear, my comrades in arms,
as the witch dressed in white bellowed more of her charms.

“You’re in my service now,” she said,
“So clean up those floors and wash down the head.
Get out your brooms, your dust rags and soap.
Get to work on it now or I’ll hang all you mopes.”

And out of the corner a soft voice did shout,
“But ma’am, we’re all wounded; we have no such gear!”

“What did you say?” as she responded in fear.
“This is Ward Eight, is it not my dear?”
“No ma’am,” came the answer from all in reply.
“We are here from the war; this is Ward Number Five.”

“Oh no!” she exclaimed, “I’ve made a mistake.
I was told that this was Ward Number Eight.
Those men are in training to be young Marines.
They had only cuts and scrapes to be seen.”

A black tear came running down from her face,
as she hung her head in total disgrace,
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! To all you poor dears.
I’ve made a mistake; please calm all your fears.”

As she walked down the hall we could hear her say,
“Oh, Lord, forgive my stupidity, forgive my mistake,
I’m off to get those slobs in Ward Eight.”

VAMC—Augusta, GA

Untitled Warriors

by Richard W. Haling
(published in Veterans’ Voices Summer 2004 issue)

As the ocean’s waves come to a mist,
They soothe my mind like a woman’s kiss.
An eagle lands upon our mast,
To God I bow with prayers to cast.
We fought in Beirut and Libya,
With no future thanks or media.
We sailed bravely into Soviet naval groups,
And did not allow them to lead their troops.
We still stand proud with honor as a vet,
We are still forgotten as of yet.
However, we are brothers hand in hand,
The role we played we understand.
We won the mission and saw victory,
As sailing warriors upon God’s sea.

VAMC—Madison, WI

American Soldiers in a Foreign Land

by George Higgins
(published in Veterans’ Voices Fall 2004 issue)

From Afghanistan to Iraq and then
From Baghdad to Tirkrit and back again
There’re G.I.s combatting terrorists on the run
In the hot desert air and blazing sun.

American soldiers on duty in foreign lands
With rifles, BAR, and carbines in their hands
Ready to fire when there’s an alarm,
Ready to fire in time of harm.

Some engaged in brutal combat
Are trained and seasoned men.
Thirty thousand strong, ready to strike
The enemy again and again.

Marching in columns one by one,
Ready with their weapon, here they come.
The American soldiers in Afghan and Iraq,
Moving forward and ready to attack.

VAMC—Prescott, AZ
Typist: Pris Chansky

The HVWP’s Legacy of Love

by Van Garner, VA Medical Center — Murfreesboro, TN
(published in Veterans’ Voices Spring 2003 issue)

I recall a time of extreme despondency, a time when life was void of any fruitful expectations. I was like a wind-blown leaf floating upon a sea of disaster, with no hope of being reunited with others of my kind.

This feeling of emptiness threatened the core of my existence. I walked the halls of mental affliction in the Veterans Administration Hospital, Murfreesboro, Tenn. For me, there was no hope for tomorrow; there was no escape from my tormented mind.

A year passed, then two. I could see no relief from the strange circumstance that had destroyed my thinking processes and left me as a vegetable in a lonely, forgotten field of endeavor. This is until I heard about the Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project. Frankly, I was afraid to try my hand at writing, for a failure to win would have driven me deeper into my shell of insignificance.

At this time, I needed a catalyst of accomplishment to stir the creative juices lying dormant in my mind. Hello, H.V.W.P! Hello to a new chance of mental redemption, a chance to unveil the real me and toss my heart through pages of the written word. No, it was not easy for me to express myself on paper, just as it was a frightening experience to speak a single word.

One might say I gambled on winning. After all, I thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Fuzzy-headed, I tried a four-line poem. My emotions about my effort were mixed. When the listing of winners in the H.V.W.P. contest arrived, my poem did not make it. So, while I was disappointed, I decided to try again. It was as though something inside me yearned to succeed and I could not turn away from the challenge.

I began to wonder how HVWP was started and who had the foresight to establish such a far-reaching program for us hospitalized veterans. Later, I learned that Elizabeth Fontaine founded this organization in 1946, just after the end of the World War II. With this newborn knowledge, I was compelled to write a fictional short story and, lo and behold, it won first prize! Thus began my 35-plus years of writing for HVWP. I have won many prizes during my career as a writer, and quite a few poems, articles and short stories have been published in Veterans’ Voices magazine, which was founded by Margaret Sally Keach in 1952.

I was honored in October 31, 1998, with an opportunity to give the keynote address at the annual meeting of H.V.W.P. in Kansas City, Mo. I was given a plaque of achievement and was recognized as an honorary member of the Board of Directors.

The entire meeting was videotaped and everyone who spoke was much more relaxed than I. But, I can say, I was proud to know I did it. In fact, I was so proud that I took one of the tapes and had it reproduced. I gave a copy of it to my doctor at the VA Outpatient Clinic in Chattanooga, Tenn., and he said it took a lot of courage on my part to deliver my speech.

I look back with admiration for those wonderful ladies who made dark clouds disappear and replaced them with sparkling sun rays. Now, I salute all the officers of present day HVWP for reaching out all over the United States of America to us veterans. This caring and giving is the core of HVWP. This is their legacy of love. And the legacy goes on!

These sample prose pages are provided compliments of PromotionsAndPrint.com. We thank all veterans for our freedom. And for personal help, a thanks is sent to vet Paddy Kelliher.

Dinner for Nine

by Lee Hill, VA Medical Center — Oklahoma City, OK
(published in Veterans’ Voices Spring 2004 issue)

I reside at the Clinton Veterans Center in Clinton, Okla., and we have many different activities. One of these is a dinner outing. I had been feeling a bit closed in, so I signed up to go along on Sunday, July 27. I arose early in order to prepare for the trip, and I was ready and waiting by the time the bus was ready to go. The trip was quite uneventful until we arrived at our destination. My friends who could walk all made a mad scramble to disembark from the bus. I had to wait for the Tommy lift to set me on terra firma, because I drive a Rascal Three-Wheeler.

We all entered together and were seated at the same table by a very pretty waitress. We ordered our most-wanted dishes, from hamburgers to expensive steaks cooked to order. As we were finishing our salads, the manager came to our table and told us our dinners had all been paid for by a lady who was dining there when we entered. She had asked the manager who we were, wanting to know if we were disabled veterans. The manager had told her we were house-bound veterans from the Clinton Disabled Veterans Center. The lady then asked if she could pay for our dinners and be kept anonymous.

She did so, and told the manager that it was the least she could do. We had done more for her and the United States than most other citizens in our fine country. She wanted to show her appreciation.

Upon hearing this, I assure you that I had to keep my mouth full to keep from crying. The tears were running down my cheeks as it was. Looking down the table, I noticed I was not the only one. More than one hand had to reach to the tears sneaking down cheeks. There was a short period of silence before we all asked in unison who this lady was. The manager informed us that she was bound to secrecy.

We each gave a heartfelt thanks to pass on to our unknown benefactor. Since then, we have decided to purchase a large thank-you card that we all can sign. We’ll send it to the manager of Simon’s Catch to relay to this wonderful lady, to show our thanks and let her know the joyous effect she had on nine lives that day.

I don’t know if my comrades feel the same; but for me, it’s a feeling similar to a resurrection. I had almost come to believe no one cared whether I lived or died. You might say I had begun to think I was just an old crippled, worn-out discard to be a burden to others. This incident has given me a real shot in the arm and restored my faith in my fellow citizens.

I must tell you this lady must be one of the most wonderful people I have most sorrowfully never had the great pleasure to meet. I will always do my utmost to uphold her opinion of me. I am overjoyed to once again have the recognition I once had so many years ago. It is one of the reasons I hold and respect the symbols of our great nation, the Eagle and Old Glory. May her stars and stripes shine on through eternity. May this fine lady stay in good health and be able to enjoy that for the rest of her days.

She will always be in my prayers as I watch the stars at night and wonder which of the brightest ones is hers.

Typist: Kathy Maynard

These sample prose pages are provided compliments of PromotionsAndPrint.com. We thank all veterans for our freedom. And for personal help, a thanks is sent to vet Paddy Kelliher.

HVWP Recognizes Medal of Honor Recipient

Ballard01HVWP Recognizes Medal of Honor Recipient At Event Marking Veterans’ Voices 60th Year of Publication.

Missouri’s only living Medal of Honor recipient, Col. (Ret) Donald “Doc” Ballard, will be the guest speaker for the Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project’s annual Veterans’ Pen Celebration on Saturday, October 27, at the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.

The event marks 60 years of continuous publishing of Veterans’ Voices—a magazine devoted exclusively to the writing of outpatient and hospitalized veterans served by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The national magazine was founded in 1952 by two Kansas Citians, Margaret Sally Keach and Gladys Feld Helzberg, and has been published three times a year ever since.

Col. Donald Ballard was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970, for heroism while serving as a Navy corpsman assigned to the Marines in Vietnam. Returning to his platoon following the evacuation of two heat casualties, Ballard’s company was ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army unit and sustained numerous casualties. Observing a wounded Marine, he unhesitatingly moved across the fire-swept terrain to the injured man to render medical assistance. As he was preparing to move the Marine, an enemy soldier left his concealed position to fire and throw a grenade on the small group. Instantly, shouting a warning to the Marines, Ballard threw himself on the lethal explosive device. When the grenade failed to detonate, he calmly rolled over and threw it away. A split second later, witnesses say, the grenade exploded in midair, away from the wounded. Ballard then continued his efforts in treating other Marine casualties.

Following his Navy service, Ballard joined the Kansas Army National Guard in 1970 and was promoted to Colonel in 1998. A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Col. Ballard now resides in Grain Valley, Missouri, where he is the owner of Swan Lake Memorial Park and Chapel of Memories Funeral Home there.