The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

May 26, 2012

WWII veterans share memories

OTTUMWA — Keith Worrell and Wesley Chidester have no problem recalling World War II.

The two men now live at Good Samaritan Center and get around on motorized chairs. They were willing to talk about their experiences and what Memorial Day means to them.

Worrell said he handled a radar unit used to find the enemy so American soldiers could turn the search light on them. He also was a night fighter in the Air Corps.

During his time in the service, Chidester was in the Air Force and stayed in the Reserves and National Guard.

After the war was over, Worrell and Chidester didn’t forget to honor the armed forces by decorating veterans’ graves and raising the U.S. flag during ceremonies.

Both Worrell and Chidester said they participated in an Honor Flight, a program for flying veterans to Washington, D.C.

Chidester said he and Worrell had good and bad memories of World War II.

“Several of my friends aren’t here to tell their stories, and I feel like they should be here,” he said.

Chidester was an airplane mechanic and the chief inspector in Guam and other places in the South Pacific. Memorial Day means a lot to him, and he’s disappointed more people don’t understand.

“So many died, so many young people,” Chidester said.

He also noted it was an important day when the troops returned to American shores. Then he joined Company C of the 224th Engineer Battalion.

“We survived, but you do put your life on the line when you’re in the armed forces,” he said. “We survived. I’m not complaining, but I still think of the young ones killed. They’re the heroes.”

Chidester also noted every American owes the soldiers and their families “an awful lot.” He also said “it’s a sad thing,” and he always remembers the soldiers during Memorial Day.

“We’re still speaking English here and we could have been speaking Chinese or some other foreign language,” he said. “People don’t realize that our lives could be changed and we could be slaves.”

Chidester also said he’s a “flag waver” who respects America.

Worrell said World War II veterans should get more respect and so should the veterans of the Vietnam War and any other war veterans.

“World War II was our war, and we had a purpose,” he said. “Now, it’s everything else, like someone wants more money or more oil.”

If he had to do it over, Worrell said he would go again.

“I have no remorse about being in World War II,” he said.

Chidester said the World War II veterans have their memories, which are their “treasure.”

“We miss our buddies,” he added.

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