View Full Version : Veterans honored in song and words; Escondido program a reminder of military service

11-08-06, 06:42 AM
Veterans honored in song and words; Escondido program a reminder of military service long ago

By: JOE BECK - Staff Writer

ESCONDIDO -- History, poetry and song stirred memories of youthful courage and camaraderie among some 60 veterans who gathered Tuesday at the Escondido Joslyn Senior Center for a tribute to their military service.

Stiff gaits and gray hair -- visible under baseball caps -- made it plain that most of those in the center's auditorium were from World War II and the Korean War. Long ago, they rode in tanks through the French countryside, shivered in the frozen mountains of Korea, and faced down their fears while battling Japanese defenders on faraway islands in the Pacific.

They sat and listened to performances commemorating sacrifices made in battles large and small.

Harvey Benne, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2513 in Escondido, recited a poem, "The Tattered Flag." The Song Spinners performed "God Bless America" and the official songs of each of the armed services. A color guard from the Escondido Police Department marched to the front of the auditorium and conducted a ceremonial folding of the American flag as the audience looked on in respectful silence.

Bob Prewitt, an Army veteran and retired member of the Escondido Fire Department, sat at one table with a pair of thick scrapbooks filled with pictures of him and his buddies during the Korean War. The photos showed young men with cigarettes dangling from their mouths amid a stark mountainous landscape.

"You can't believe the roughness of those mountains," Prewitt said, likening them to much higher versions of the Sierra Nevada range.

He turned over several pages showing North Korean prisoners of war and dead GIs on the ground, victims of anti-tank mine. One man he sees at regular reunions of his unit remains haunted by the memories of a man dying in his arms, Prewitt said.

"That had bothered him for more than 50 years. You can see why," Prewitt said, lowering his voice to nearly a whisper.

Bob Howard, a retired purchasing agent from Escondido, said he served two stints in the Army, one during World War II in France and the second in Germany during the Korean War. Howard said he turned down an invitation from his commanding officer in Germany to volunteer for duty in Korea. He had seen enough of combat as a member of a tank unit during the last year of World War II.

"Once you've been through that and survived, you don't ever want to go back," Howard said.

-- Contact staff writer Joe Beck at (760) 740-3516 or jbeck@nctimes.com.