Memorial Day Through the Eyes of Veterans

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WWII veteran Frank "Butch" Lucia holding his Air Force photo.

Article by
Jean L. Gomory

Memorial Day is a day to honor the servicemen and women who died while serving their country. But if you ask a veteran, they’ll tell you that Memorial Day is not just for them. While it is important to honor those who gave their lives for the freedom of others, for some veterans Memorial Day is about remembering all those who have passed; especially family.

You would be hard-pressed to meet a more colorful character than World War II veteran Frank “Butch” Lucia. He’s a quick-witted 95-year-old who loves telling stories of days gone by. He grew up on the west side of Warren, PA and spent his adult years in Russell, PA where he built his house. He knows how to fix everything from plumbing to electric and he can still do geometry in his head.

In 1943 Butch was 18 years old. In 1943, 18-year-olds were drafted. Butch didn’t want to carry a gun. To avoid the draft into the infantry he and a friend enlisted in the Air Force. While serving his country Butch had a few close calls, including almost getting shot down by Japanese plane. Not many young men from Butch’s neighborhood returned home from the war, but Butch is grateful to be one of them. This Memorial Day he plans to visit the graves of loved ones.

Soldiers & Sailors Park in front of the Veterans Memorial Bridge (Hickory Street Bridge) in downtown Warren, PA

Frank Brown served in the Navy and retired in 1990 after 20 years of service in the construction battalion (CB). This unit was officially named Seabees on March 5, 1942. Frank had a lot of interesting experiences in the Navy, including being deployed to an island in the middle of nowhere and living in a hut. The way he was raised, Memorial Day was a day to honor everyone who has passed, not just veterans. He spends his Memorial Days taking care of family graves and honoring family and friends who have gone before him.

Debby Hornburg was a peace time soldier serving in the Army from 1980 – 1986. During her service she learned the world is a lot bigger than Warren County, everything is not black and white, and people are people. Some good, some bad. Those years gave her a bigger perspective than she would have had if she had never left the county. It certainly was a growing experience. Being in the service didn’t change her perspective on Memorial Day, but she has always respected the sacrifices of the soldiers who serve during war times.

This Memorial Day, take a moment to appreciate the freedoms that have been so hard-won and defended. Thank a veteran for their service, and maybe go to the grave of that loved one that you haven’t visited in a while. Peace is fought for. Freedom is strived for. And loved ones are never lost.