Editor's note: The town of DeRidder hosts the Southwest Louisiana All Veteran's Reunion Saturday and Sunday to honor all veterans of the U.S. armed forces, with special emphasis placed on those vets who served during World War II. What follows is one those veterans' stories.

DERIDDER, La. - On Dec. 21, 1942, Earl Hollingsworth was a 22-year-old working at the air base in Lake Charles when he received "an invitation from Uncle Sam" to join the Army.

"My boss told me he could probably get me a deferment since I was working on an air base, but people tended to look down on draft dodgers back then," he said. "I told him 'no,' but that he could help me get into the Army Air Corps. I don't know if it helped, but I got in."

Hollingsworth was one of about 16 million men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II. Of those 16 million, 310,979 were either killed in action or died in accidents during or shortly after the war from wounds received in combat. There were also 12,780 veterans listed as missing in action and 673,483 wounded in action.

Today, there are about 2 million World War II veterans still living, but they are dying at the rate of about 900 per day.

Hollingsworth was shipped out to Sheppard Field, Texas for basic training, and then went to Scott Field, Ill., where he trained to be a radio operator/mechanic and control tower operator. While he was at Scott Field, his wife, Violet, joined him.

"She wasn't supposed to be there and couldn't stay on base, but she came anyway," he said. "I couldn't leave base to visit her, but if she came on base to visit, I could get out of KP (kitchen patrol) to visit."

Violet, who has been married to Hollingsworth for 71 years, said she had an ulterior motive in visiting her husband.

"I wanted a baby, but he said to wait until he got back from the war," she said.
"I had been raised by a stepfather and I didn't want my kids to be raised by one if something had happened to me," Hollingsworth said.

After training, Hollingsworth was assigned to the 442nd Transportation Group, 303rd Squadron.

"It was a new unit and only had one radio operator, so that's where I was assigned," Hollingsworth said. "I had never been in a plane before - I liked it and stayed there."