Congress unanimously voted in 2010 to support creation of a national “Spirit of ’45 Day,” which is to be observed the second Sunday of August each year in memory of Aug. 14, 1945, the day President Harry Truman announced that World War II was over.
Ten Patterson-area World War II veterans were honored as part of a reception Friday. Allister Allen, Emil Burch, Gene Carter, Marcel Chapuis, Wendel Torrison, John V. Azevedo, Justin Trainer, Robert English, Howard Gomes and Richard Hansen were all presented awards thanking them for their service in the war.
Gomes and Burch were the only honorees who were able to attend. Many of the veterans were homebound because of their age, which ranged from 87 to 94, according to Mike Anderson, the commander of American Legion Post 168, who co-hosted the celebration with Sandra Holt of CareMore, a senior health care group in Modesto.
The gathering included Mayor Luis Molina, Councilman Dominic Farinha, City Council candidate Sheree Lustgarten and Mia Brudnicki from Sen. Anthony Cannella’s office.
Molina presented proclamations from the city to the 10 local veterans, and Brudnicki presented framed certificates of appreciation signed by Cannella.
After singing the national anthem with the crowd, Molina, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, spoke.
“We should never forget not only what these veterans of World War II sacrificed, but what veterans of all campaigns have,” he said, noting that he lost his paternal grandfather in World War II and never met him.
“A lot of people in this town don’t know we still have World War II vets,” he said. “Please, do me a favor. When you see anyone on the street who say they’re a veteran, give them the understanding that they’ve seen things you can’t even imagine.”
After the ceremonies, Gomes he had never spoken much about his service, because he felt he had it easy compared with some of his comrades.
Gomes served from 1944 to 1945 in the South Pacific, where Allied ships shelled the shores of the islands and atolls occupied by Japanese soldiers. They also fought submarines carrying supplies to those soldiers by using depth charges — bombs designed to explode beneath the water and damage underwater craft.
“Once I noticed, while we were shelling an island — I’m not sure exactly where in the South Pacific — a soldier shooting at us from shore,” Gomes said. “One of the bullets hit the water in front of me and bounced over my head.”
He returned home to farm and later started a hay-hauling truck business.
Burch also briefly talked about his service with the 96th Infantry from 1944 to 1946 in Okinawa, Japan, where he guarded and patrolled his company’s position day and night. Eventually, they saw battle, and he was slightly wounded, although he did not elaborate.
When Burch returned home, he farmed for a while before starting a career with Patterson Irrigation District.
Nick Rappley can be reached at 892-6187, ext. 31, or firstname.lastname@example.org.