Southern Indiana World War II veterans share wartime memories

WASHINGTON (GrayDC) More than 80 veterans in Washington, DC today visiting memorials built in their honor. Each have their own special story.

Southern Indiana veterans pose for a picture with a picture from their time in the service at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Source: GrayDC)

On a brisk, fall morning, World War II Army veteran Martin Bender is trying to capture it all.

“You hear about all these memorials. But you don’t get to see them, probably once in your lifetime,” Bender said.

Bender took a spin around a memorial built in his honor, overwhelmed by the staggering number of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. A loss for Bender—his childhood best friend, killed in action in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.

“I hate to even think about it,” he said.

The 96-year-old was drafted in two wars.

“I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m still around,” he said.

In World War II, Bender was a medical school student on the home front. In the Korean War, he was a doctor treating prisoners of war overseas.

“I was on Geoje-do with 50,000 of the enemies’ prisoners. I was on a surgical team…they tried to escape and they got machine gunned and we’d take them to surgery and save them. So, we saved a lot of Korean lives,” he said.

Bender is one of a few World War II veterans on this honor flight. It is an emotional day as they reflect on their time in the service.

“It’s unbelievable the amount of attention that people are giving us, after frankly many years of no attention,” said Ralph Elsner.

Ralph Elsner is 93-years-old and said age has taken its toll. Elsner was drafted into World War II in the Army, fighting on Okinawa in Japan…working with howitzers, high power artillery.

“I went over when I was 18 years old,” he said.

This trip is a special moment for the veteran.

“I can’t believe it. Everyone has been so nice,” he said.

It was a picture-perfect experience for each Hoosier as snapshots of the past meet the men of the present.

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