The Austintown Senior Center was filled with rousing rounds of military songs and patriotic pride at a veteran recognition ceremony hosted by Crossroads Hospice on Wednesday evening.
"A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check to the United States for an amount up to an including their lives," hospice chaplain Dan Tayman read from a poem at the ceremony.
Nearly all of the 67 veterans invited were in attendance to receive pins and enjoy a community meal. Among them were Homer Marsh and Robert Bishop.
Marsh, 88, was drafted into the U.S. Army at the age of 18 and taken out of highschool as a senior. He then served in World War II, where he was captured as a prisoner of war just 35 days before the end of the war.
"They starved us to death. I only had an eighth of a loaf of bread to eat each day, and it was black bread," he said.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Margaret Thompson
U.S. Army veteran Sgt. E-5 Gary Kommel, 65, right, presents U.S. Navy veteran Robert Bishop on Wednesday a plaque recognizing his service. Bishop was aboard the USS Tennessee during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. His said his ship was hit by two Japanese bombs.
With the end of the war, he said he and the other prisoners of war were turned over to the police and eventually taken to New Jersey.
Bishop, 92, served with the U.S. Navy and was aboard the USS Tennessee when it was hit during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
"I didn't see any of the bombing because my station was below deck," he said.
He said there had been a rumor that there might be a landing that day so they were preparing for it but the landing never came. Instead he said his ship was hit with two bombs, killing several on board.
"We wondered what in the world was going on, we could hear the explosions," he said.
It wasn't until hours later that he was able to surface and survey the damage. Bishop's time wasn't just wrapped up into that one day through. The ship was repaired and he with it participated in 13 major operations and the Battle of Surigao Strait in the Philippines in October 1944.
Bishop controlled the 14-inch guns and said it was "just his trigger finger" involved. The battle was won by the U.S. Navy, he said in less than 12 minutes.
U.S. Army veteran Ron Borngesser Sr., who helps run the senior center's veteran corner, also helped organize the event with Crossroads Hospice. Borngesser served with the Signal Corp in Germany during the Vietnam War.
"We have to keep the freedom going and the respect going," he said.