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Remembering our veterans: War stories fill air during ceremony
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Joe Wood was sworn into the U.S. Army on Dec. 31, 1942.

He went to South Carolina, where he was assigned to the 39th Infantry Training Battalion.

"For nine weeks I endured everything that they threw to me," Wood said of his basic training. "And it was tough."

Later, Wood was sent to Delaware, where he worked as a telephone operator at the headquarters company of the 21st Coast Artillery Corps during World War II.

Wood’s story is one of many that remain in the minds and hearts of veterans long after they have served.

On Monday, the Paul E. Bolding Post 7 of the American Legion held its annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Georgia Mountains Center. During the program, the Chestatee High School band ensemble performed a medley of patriotic tunes, and the veterans paid tribute to prisoners of war and soldiers who are missing in action with a small round table and empty chair on the stage.

One by one, vets placed a rose, red ribbon, inverted glass, candle and American flag upon the table, each with a special meaning.

Several war veterans shared their experiences during their time of service.

As a telephone operator, Wood was responsible for checking with different units to see if they were on the alert.

"We had to be on top of our duties at all times," Wood said.

Korean War veteran Bill Brown joined the military on Dec. 7, 1950 — Pearl Harbor Day.

As soon as he finished basic training he received orders to go to Korea, where he was assigned to the 1st Infantry, 24th Division.

Brown was wounded on June 28, 1951.

He vividly recalled the experience: "Suddenly finding yourself blown up in the air, coming down in a mountain laurel bush and blood flying everywhere, hollering and screaming, and all the fire was still coming in. It was a pretty horrific moment.

"I don’t know what hell is like, but at that particular minute that would’ve been close," Brown said.

While Brown’s injury was not life-threatening, the healing process was slow, and he had to have two skin grafts.

David Dellinger, a veteran of the Vietnam War, entered the U.S. Navy in 1959.

"Everything was calm and quiet," he said.

Dellinger had made several cruises to the Pacific when, on another cruise in November 1964, his squadron was sent to the South China Sea.

The men bombed targets, mostly ammunition depots and trucks hauling ammunition out of them.

Dellinger left his squadron in 1965.

Wood said that 16.1 million people served in World War II. Of that number, 2.9 million are alive today.

As of a 2000 census, Wood said there were 1,660 World War II veterans living in Hall County.

While many of the veterans have since passed away, Wood was able to celebrate his 85th birthday two weeks ago.

"The good Lord has blessed me in so many ways," he said. "I was glad that I had this opportunity (to serve)."

Brown said that being in combat, being wounded or receiving a Purple Heart doesn’t make him any more of a veteran than the next person.

"We all know that when we’re in service, you go where you’re told and you attempt to do what you’re told to do," he said. "I don’t know of any veteran that got to pick where he served or the kind of service he rendered. We’re all just veterans."