CRANBERRY TWP — Although they served in different conflicts across many decades, the veterans in the Cranberry Noon Rotary club are united in service to their country and now in service to their community.
Seven Rotarians and one guest shared their military experiences and received a gift Tuesday from the club in recognition of Veterans Day.
“Whether they fought during peace time or endured the brutality of the front lines, they deserve our recognition,” said Shavonne Ayres, Rotary president.
Rotarians Hank Anna, Stan Budney, Dave Elliott, Ed Hanke, Bill Hewko, Ken Hricz and Chris Hudac and guest Dan Davis were recognized by the club during its weekly meeting at the Rose E. Schneider Family YMCA.
Their time-served ranged from the Korean War up to the Iraq War.
Budney said he joined the service when he was 17 years old.
“Before I knew it they were shipping me off to Korea,” he said. “I saw the world.”
Davis said he was drafted into the Army in 1969 while working as an iron worker building Three Rivers Stadium. He became a combat infantryman and served overseas in Vietnam. Davis shared photographs of his time in the service.
Hewko enlisted in the Army after graduating from Geneva College and went to basic training at Fort Knox. He didn't see battle, but his unit became active during the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The conflict was resolved before he was sent overseas.
“I really respect veterans,” Hewko said. “They were special people. I wouldn't consider myself special.”
Elliott was drafted into the Army in 1969. He was one day shy of starting veterinary school when he had to leave for basic training.
“They wanted every warm body you can get,” he said.
He was sent to Vietnam.
“Every night you had to sleep to the sound of artillery fire from the base,” Elliott said.
Hudac, a new Rotarian and a Marine veteran, told a story from his time in Iraq that reminded him of the meaning of Veterans Day. He was deployed to Iraq in 2006 just two weeks after he was married and left behind a pregnant wife.
One day, while he was stationed on a rooftop and things were slow, his platoon officer gave him a satellite phone to call his heavily pregnant wife back home.
As the couple chatted, a firefight broke out. Hudac did not want to worry his wife, though, so he pretended things were fine. Suddenly, she hung up on him, he said.
The next day Hudac found out his wife had given birth. She later told him she knew there was a firefight going on and her water broke at the same time. But she wanted him to keep his focus, so she did not tell him, he said.
“Veterans Day is about those crazy people at home who support you,” Hudac said.