Mission accomplished: CHEER’s patriotic salute a success with student platoons

Flags representing the United States Armed Forces.

GEORGETOWN – Veterans and America’s military drew a patriotic salute Wednesday at the CHEER Community Center.

In the cross-hairs of the 2017 Military Honor Day/Patriots Day: students and education.

“I’m very pleased, mostly because of the students and the educational part of it,” said Korean War veteran Walter Koopman, a CHEER board member who spearheads this annual event. “They were very good students. They were listeners. They took notes. They asked questions. It was overwhelming to see them here in the groups that they were.”

Numerous educational displays and historic memorabilia encompassing Pearl Harbor, Normandy, the Korean War, Vietnam War and conflicts to the present, including the Cold War, Grenada, Iraq and Afghanistan were showcased.

World War II veteran Ernest Marvel holds a keepsake: a knife taken from a captured German soldier.

Students had the opportunity to meet 93-year-old Ernest Marvel of Frankford and 97-year-old wartime nurses Ellen Orkin of Milford and Romaine Rupp of Seaford, who shared their experiences of World War II.

“I’ve been talking with them. They came over to meet me at the table,” said Mr. Marvel, who saw combat with the 7th Army, 45th Infantry Division in a squad known as the Thunderbirds. “There were four boys, and then they came back again.  They asked questions like, ‘How did we make out when there was fire over your head?’ My old saying is, ‘If I get my head and chest down, then this part is not going to kill me; my rear end or my feet.”

Mr. Marvel, a PFC, came home with eight medals, including two Bronze Stars, plus a knife and another piece of war history from a captured German soldier.

He also returned with a shrapnel wound memento.

“Where I got that (shrapnel) was 28 of us went out to take this little village; they call them villages over their not towns. There was a camouflaged tank in the town and it was shooting direct tank fire. Shrapnel was flying everywhere. Only eight out of our 28 got out. Believe me, I said many a prayer on the front line,” said Mr. Marvel, who took part in the liberation of Dachau, the first concentration camp opened in Germany.

As a U.S. Army 1st lieutenant nurse, Ms. Orkin and her sister, the late Dorothy Levitsky-Sinner experienced some of World War II’s bloodiest campaigns, including D-Day/Normandy and The Battle of the Bulge.

“We got a lot of (General) Patton’s boys,” said Ms. Orkin, who served for a little more than a year in Europe.

For years, Ms. Orkin and her sister kept the war to themselves.

World War II nurses Ellen Orkin, left, and Romaine Rupp were among the special VIP guests at the Military Honor Day/Patriots Day Observance Sept. 13 at the CHEER Community Center.

“After the war when my sister and I came home we never discussed World War II,” she said. “We always felt that it was a job to do and we did our job and came home. That was it. But we never discussed World War II – until 2004 when we became the Greatest Generation. Then you noticed the men started talking about it then.”

Ms. Rupp was stationed on this side of the Atlantic Ocean during the war.

“I was in Puerto Rico, believe it or not. I was in a very not-so-angerous place. We just took care of all the soldiers,” said Ms. Rupp, who did experience the enemy when a German submarine tracked a convoy they were in along the eastern seaboard.

Mr. Marvel recalled the promise of a hot turkey dinner that went missing in action.

“If we got a hot meal once a month we were lucky. We lived on K-rations, C-rations and D-rations,” said Mr. Marvel. “This one day our general comes by and says, ‘You guys are in luck today. You are going to get a hot meal.’ Well we waited all day long for it. Come just before night they came by and said that their kitchen had gone by and it was over on the German side, and they – the Germans – were eating it. They had got their territory mixed up so the Germans got the hot meal. We still had to live on rations.”

Mr. Koopman saluted the student groups in attendance, including several high school Junior ROTC units.

Walter Koopman stands among his historical memorabilia from the Korean War, including his helmet, gear, hand grenades (in-active, of course) and a black and white photograph while serving in that conflict.

“Most of them shook my hand and thanked me for this because this way they get it first-hand. They don’t read and misunderstand or get the wrong information,” said Mr. Koopman. “They spoke out and got it right from the source; the true facts about what goes on from Dec. 7 of 1941 at Pearl Harbor right up to what is going on today in Iraq and Afghanistan, with ISIS and all the threats from terrorism.”

“There were a lot of veterans and a good public turnout,” said Mr. Koopman. “Wednesday is good day (to hold the event). Yes, a lot of people work. But for the most part the students were my aim this year because I wanted them to see really what goes on and be able to do this with respect to talking to somebody that has been there. That is very important to me.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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