Local veterans recall service during special ceremony
At just 18 years old, Warren Watson was not nearly ready for the gruesome horrors he saw from the front line in World War II.
He was drafted into the Army, where senior officers glanced at him, then handed him a machine gun.
The teen from Ardara became a machine gunner with the Seventh Army.
In 1945, he carried a .50-caliber machine gun from France to the Rhine River in Germany. He remembers a fellow soldier calling him over and asking him to teach him how to pray because he was scared he would die.
Warren “Biz” Watson, 88, does his best to block out other lingering memories of bloodshed, the tough conditions and missing comrades from companies that spanned the German forests.
Watson and local veterans who served in various wars were honored for their service Monday at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 781 in Irwin. Across the nation, the day was marked by parades, ceremonies and memorials.
At the Irwin post, wreaths were placed to honor veterans, along with a 3-volley gun salute and rendition of taps.
A string ensemble from Norwin High School played patriotic songs as veterans mingled.
For Watson, Veterans Day celebrations have evolved since he returned home.
He grimaces when he sees advertisements for Veterans Days specials while he recalls staying on the front line for 119 days in the same clothing and shoes.
“I'm disappointed by the commercialization of Veterans Day,” Watson said. “That's not what it's all about.”
Don Kattic, commander of the Irwin VFW Post, said he never wants veterans to feel overlooked.
In 1951, he joined the Marines to serve his country during the Korean War, he said. He was a fire team leader in the 3rd battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.
“There wasn't a band playing when I came back, and Vietnam veterans weren't treated well either,” Kattic, 80, of North Huntingdon, said. “When you see a veteran with a baseball hat on, just say, ‘Thank you for serving our country.' You'll see a tear in their eye. To me, that's important. Make them feel appreciated.”
Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.