Veterans share memories for a lifetime
June 27, 2012
EL PASO, Texas -- Each generation has its great war, and each servicemember gathers a collection of memories that will be forever etched in their mind.
One place in particular contains a vast wealth of historical knowledge. The Ambrosio Guillen Veterans Home, El Paso, Texas, cares for some of the military's oldest Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and Airmen.
"When [World War II] broke-out; they took us directly from Camp Davis (N.C.) to Boston, where we got on the Queen Mary. Forty days later we got off in Sydney, Australia, and then it was in to New Guinea --- I was 27, on September 26, I'll be 98," said Emory Osborn, a retired master sergeant.
On April 12, 1942, Osborn, then an anti-aircraft gun commander, watched the skies blacken as an estimated 96 Japanese planes barreled down on his position.
"We had to load those 90 mm (rounds) by hand, we had to manhandle them in," said Osborn. "We got a few of them, and that made me feel good, after it was over with."
One of the experiences many servicemembers share is adapting to the changes that occurred while they were fighting overseas.
"Well, when I came back to the states in March of 1945, back at Fort Bliss, things had changed quite a bit," said Osborn.
Osborn said when he left to go overseas the cavalry was still at Fort Bliss and they still had their horses, when he got home the horses were gone.
Most people are familiar with iconic images of servicemembers returning home after war, but these images do not show the harrowing tales carried by that individual.
Gary Crupper, a retired U.S. Marine said he considered just about every moment in Vietnam a scary one.
In the summer of 1969, Sgt. Crupper, two Navy aviators and another Marine crash-landed their helicopter into the Mekong River.
"An RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) went through the belly of the helicopter and crashed it --- both Navy pilots were killed by rifle-fire before the helicopter ever hit the ground, it was pretty scary," said Crupper, a two-time stroke survivor. "I remember the bullets were coming through the hull like it was made of paper walls --- me and another Marine got out."
Most would agree, that Crupper's ability to endure a number of life threatening encounters makes him uniquely qualified to offer advice on achieving a safe deployment.
"Remember the training, and remember those buddy packs," said Crupper.
Crupper also has advice for servicemembers with difficult memories they do not wish to vividly relive.
"It was very difficult getting back to normal, it's a lot of work, but the military has good therapists, and if you work with them, they'll work with you, and you'll get back to feeling normal," said Crupper.
Osborn is a permanent resident at the veteran's home, but Crupper's stay is only temporary, as he recovers from a stroke.
Crupper said jokingly, his stay would last only as long as it takes him to escape.
Osborn and Crupper are only two examples of the vast wealth of knowledge that resides at places like the Ambrosio Guillen Veterans Home, knowledge not only on military history, but life itself.