2015-11-12 / Today's Top Stories

World War II veterans honored in Troy

BY ERIC HRIN
Staff Writer

TROY — State Rep. Matt Baker looked across a gathering of veterans Wednesday in Troy.

Seated together in the Troy Vets Club, the men were guests at a special dinner on Veterans Day to honor their service in World War II.

“I think this may be the biggest representation of World War II veterans in one room I’ve ever seen,” Baker commented.

Baker was on hand to present the veterans medals, pins, and certificates in recognition of their sacrifices.

Nadine Furman arranged the dinner.

“I decided to do this because my dad, Edward Austin, is a WWII veteran,” she explained. “And he said to me one day, ‘I wonder how many of us are left from this area?’ So, I thought, ‘why not try to find out and maybe they could all get together for lunch.’ I contacted Veterans Affairs to see if they knew of any or how many, but they didn’t have that information. So, I decided to contact the papers and I called several of the American Legions and VFWs and from that, I got several names and I called them all to see if they would be interested.”

“The purpose of this is to bring these WWII heroes together so they can enjoy each other’s company,” she said.

Furman said she wanted them to have a happy Veterans Day and to “let them know how thankful we are for them and how much they mean to us.”

“Each day hundreds of WWII veterans pass away,” she said. “So, now was the time to do this.”

The World War II veterans’ experiences were diverse.

One veteran, Philip Dann of Gillett, said he was in the Navy and was aboard two mine sweepers. Now 95 years old, Bert Williams of Towanda, said he served in the Air Force in England, handling bombs.

And one veteran, Miles Ayers, 92, a member of the Troy Vets Club since 1976 and a resident of Elmira Heights, said that he even met and shook hands with none other than Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower on the front lines in Germany.

“I saluted him, we shook hands, and we talked,” he said. He noted that he was part of a group of servicemen that Eisenhower visited.

Ayers said it was wet and cold, and they were wearing plain shoes. He said that Eisenhower was concerned that they didn’t have boots, and said he would get them some.

“I didn’t stick around long enough to get them,” Ayers recalled.

He had a high opinion of the man who would someday become the president of the United States.

“He was a man of men,” Ayers said. “He knew what he was doing.”

Ayers said he was in the 84th Infantry and took part in D-Day plus 6.

He remembered “bullets flying all over.”

Although he wasn’t injured, he said that he had a couple ailments, trenchfoot and a back infection.

Ayers liked the dinner honoring the World War II veterans.

“It’s good that they could get all the veterans together,” he said, noting there aren’t “too many of us left anymore.”

Dick Besley, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel from the Columbia Cross Roads area, said the prayer at the dinner and also spoke about how a World War II veteran, Alfred Lerch, was recently laid to rest.

After the 94-year-old Lerch passed away in September at the Bradford County Manor, a next of kin could not be found.

But veterans in the Troy area wanted to make sure that he was given a proper farewell.

Besley recalled how they gathered at Sylvan Hill Cemetery in Columbia Township to inter his remains and share their memories about him. The Troy VFW/American Legion Honor Guard rendered military honors.

“We were glad we were able to lower him away in a proper manner,” he said.

At the end of the dinner, a total of 19 veterans gathered together for a group photo.

Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297- 5251; email: reviewtroy@thedailyreview.com.

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