Veterans From World War II To 'Operation Enduring Freedom' Share Their Experiences

Nov 13, 2019

A view of the panel, starting with World War II Army veteran Louis Viscosi in the foreground.

On Monday, we celebrated Veterans Day, honoring those who have served in the United States Armed Forces.

The first one was in 1919 and was originally called Armistice Day. That’s because World War I was formally ended by Armistice with Germany at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Thus, 11-11 being the chosen date. The day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

Last week, Indian River State College’s Pruitt Campus in Pt. St. Lucie opened its doors to the community to hear firsthand from military veterans through a question and answer session moderated by Dr. Harvey Arnold. He’s the Provost of the IRSC Pruitt Campus and a Vietnam Veteran.

The panel included veterans from World War II all the way to Operation Enduring Freedom.

Robert William Conniff, who served in the Marines in Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey, Iran, Jordan, and Afghanistan, describes a harrowing experience in a plane sitting on a cargo net without a seat belt!

RC: That was one I had a hard time with. I legitimately thought I was going to die. We got word when I was going into country, that we were gonna get attacked. We were gonna get shot at. That was the first time I ever experienced a combat drop; of doing circles in the sky. Going down at a very heavy angle and flattening out literally at the last minute.

Here’s World War II Army veteran Louis Viscosi explaining his arrival in France.

LV: When I first got off the boat, they dropped me off in the water, I just didn’t like that at all. This is not for me! (laughter) We got through it!

Here’s Ronald Winkelmann who served in the Army in Korea.

RW: Upon departing the ship and harbor, we were immediately placed on trucks and sent directly to the combat area. 

Lee Bertman, who served in the Army in Vietnam, talks about his boot camp experience.

LB: They had this muddy field with low barbed wire, and they had 30 caliber water-cooled machine guns firing above us. They convinced us it was live ammunition. I don’t think it was, but who knows? So, we had to crawl about 150 yards under barbed wire all the while these machine guns were firing. Now in those days they did not issue ear plugs. So, this was a very, very loud event.

Thomas McDowell served in the Air Force in Iraq, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. He talks about how serving in the military instilled a strong…

TM: …work ethic just to get it done. Not to put it off on somebody else or say that’s not my job. Something needs to be done so I got it done. And I still do, do that.

Skip Wood served in the Navy in Vietnam.

SW: The can-do attitude is I think what you learn in the military is that you can do it no matter what. Because you might lose your leaders, and so you’ve got to step up.

Here’s Army veteran Ronald Winkelmann.

RW: Returning from Korea, the first thing that I thought about was how great it was to be back in a country that really gives benefits to the people who earn it.  Love of country, Love of flag was very intense at that time.

Dr. Arnold also shared his military experiences.

HA: After we had been in Vietnam about 7 months, a member of our unit came down with the bubonic plague. We were all out there naked and they were dusting us down with lime. And then they brought these bulldozers in and they bulldozed our base camp into a ravine. And I saw grown men cry.

Indian River State College presents this event annually so keep that in mind next year if you’d like to attend.