<b> FORT STEWART, GA </b> -- In another month, he'll be 92, but he's as feisty as he was while serving with the 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division in North Africa, Italy, France, Germany and Austria from July 1943 to December 1945. Former Pfc. Mark Kishton, recipient of the Bronze Star and seven Purple Hearts is still a fighter.

"If you asked me today to go over to Iraq, I'd say, 'yes,' but you have to be willing to go with me," Kishton said, pointing out that his two-plus years of continuous combat during World War II would increase his prospects of success better than most, even those one-fourth his age. "I know war like the back of my hand. I know what war is about."

Kishton's war memories are vivid and painful. He smiled when talking about a 4-month period at Anzio where he fought from the same foxhole, never once getting a chance to shower. His expression turned somber as he related a story about his battle buddy being killed by friendly artillery fire only seconds after he warned him to get down in the foxhole. After the war, Kishton returned home to Ohio and his wife, Mary Andrako Kishton, whom he'd married in 1941.

Mary went to work for a raincoat factory after graduating high school. It was there that she met her life-long friend, Michealina Kishton Sexton, her future sister-in-law, and the one who introduced her to Mark.

"The first time I came over to their house, he wasn't there, but his brother was," Mary said, smiling. "But I wasn't interest in him. Mark played drums and sang in a band. I liked him from the start."

The Kishton's have two daughters. Michealina went on to marry too. She and her husband were married for more than 40 years. Her son, Col. Charles Sexton was given command of the Spartan Brigade by 3rd Inf. Div. Commander Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo during a change of command ceremony at Marne Garden, Aug. 1. He replaces Col. Terry Ferrell.

Sexton said he was honored to receive command of the 2nd BCT, especially to have his mom, aunt and hard fighting uncle there to see it.
As the war effort got underway, more and more men like Kishton were shipping out for training and subsequent deployment to the war zone. This created thousands of job vacancies in the factories trying to support the war. In the spirit of today's Army Community Covenant, the entire country was behind the war effort. Both Mary and Michealina became a "Rosie the Riveter," the celebrated icon that represented the six million women who became the backbone of America's workforce during World War II.

Mary had started working for Truscan Steel Company in Youngstown, Ohio when husband Mark was drafted and sent off to then Camp McClellan, Ala. for training. She followed, renting a room in a boarding house so she could be with him until he shipped out. She said she would sometimes bribe gate guards with homemade cookies, so she could spend time with her husband. After he deployed, she returned to Youngstown and continued making steel tracks for Sherman tanks and armor plating for scout cars, half-track vehicles and bombers.

Michealina took a job that was even more unusual for a woman in those days. She worked for Atlas Powder Company, Ravenna Arsenal in Ravenna, Ohio from 1942 to 1945. Her plant manufactured thousands of tons of artillery shells and aerial-delivered munitions. She said she started out mixing TNT but said her blood couldn't take the toxic mixture, so she ended up driving a forklift.

"When I think about how dangerous that job was, I can't believe I did it," Michealina said, shaking her head and smiling. They didn't do anything special to those bombs to protect them. They were just laid out on a wooden pallet, and I was moving them with a forklift, sometimes up and down truck ramps not much wider than the forklift."

The U.S. and her allies defeated the Nazis in Europe and the Japanese in the Pacific thanks to the relentless efforts of brave men like Pfc. Mark Kishton and the resolute dedication of women like Mary Kishton and Michealina Sexton, who supported the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines from the homefront.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16