PUBLISHED: 6:01 PM on Wednesday, November 9, 2005
They remember the sacrifices but do we?

  Judy Halone
Our veterans remember. They remember sayings that left a mark. Al Bogdan remembers. In 1944 he traveled the road between Normandy, Le Mans and Paris with other Army Reserves.

"The fighting was way up in front. We were the rear echelon-a support group for the rear battlefield. We were replacements. We had technicians, mechanics, cooks, secretaries, and people who could fix typewriters," he said.

He later worked on the third floor of a banker's residence in the heart of Paris.

"I was in Battle Casualty Reporting. We had 500,000 IBM punch cards in big trays; they kept track of every soldier in the U.S. military, including the European Theatre. We listed the wounded, prisoners of war, missing in action and killed in action. We sent the info to the War Department, but it was our department that sent out letters of condolences to next-of-kin."

Bogdan took orders from a master sergeant wounded in the North Africa Campaign.

"He always said, 'Hit the dust!' if we ever heard artillery, or got sent to the front lines in battle condition. Some of our office got sent up to the Battle of the Bulge. But they didn't last long. They weren't battle-wise; they were lawyers and technicians," he stated. "Many of them never returned."

Ten years later, while clearing brush with family and friends on his 130-acre farm, Bogdan applied his master sergeant's saying.

"I used my John Deere tractor and work cart to load debris. Sometimes I'd slip and fall down. We'd shout, 'Hit the dust!' I said it a lot-you have to do it carefully so you don't get hurt," he explained.

John Curnan remembers. He was drafted into the Army at 23, two decades after WWII.

"Dad asked, 'How do you feel about it? Will you get through it?'"

The Rhinebeck, New York native-not too particularly fond of cold weather-had a ready answer.

"The worst thing they could do is send me to Alaska!" Curnan ended up at the Army's Arctic Test Center in Ft. Greeley. Winter temperatures dipped to 70-below. But summers were another story.

"On the longest day of the year, we'd hear, 'It's time for the midnight baseball game!' It was a Ft. Greeley tradition," he laughed.

Recalling the saying was nearly as fun for Curnan as watching the White Sox win their recent Pennant.

John Karna remembers. He served in the Navy during WWII as a painter second class, keeping New Caledonia hospitals in shape. He later served aboard the USS Klondike Destroyer Tender Class in the South Pacific.

Karna recalls one significant saying, but it didn't occur during his military service.

"This past spring I watched my grandson graduate at the Citadel," he proudly recalled.

While there, Karna-wearing his VFW cap-walked on to the parade fields and sat alone on a bench.

"A young man in his thirties walked up to me. He just said, 'Thank you.'

"That brought tears to my eyes. It made me choke up. I'll never forget that."

I asked Karna how many times he has heard the words "Thank you" for serving our country. His eyes watered. I sensed a foreboding in the silence.


That's one time in 59 years.

Our veterans remember.

And the one saying that's left the biggest mark is the one uttered the least often.

They remember. Do we?

This week's column is dedicated to my great-great-grandfather James Olcott, who died of starvation as a Civil War POW in Andersonville, and in memory of my Uncle Morris Brown, a Bataan Death March survivor.

And in honor of our many veterans who have bestowed courage and unselfishness.

To you I say, "Thanks."