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Somers Vets Express Gratitude for Being Americans

SOMERS, N.Y. – In honor of Memorial Day, The Somers Daily Voice asked veterans how their war experiences changed their lives.

Nicholas LaPenna was drafted into the Army in 1944, right after his high school graduation. He had a quick basic training course and was deployed to Europe. LaPenna was wounded and spent nearly a year in the hospital before being discharged in 1946.

“I never thought of it as life-changing,” he said thoughtfully. “But it was kind of strange for a 19-year-old kid from the Bronx to go to Europe. I’d never even been to a restaurant before.”

Korean War veteran Richard Hadad, whose father had immigrated to America from Syria, said, “I’ve never told this to anyone, but I joined the Army when I was 18 because I didn’t get into Princeton, like my father wanted me to.”

“Fighting in Korea changed my life,” he said. “I began to learn that the whole world wasn’t like America. In spite of all the beauty in the world, it’s a dangerous place with dangerous people in it. It was then, and it still is.”

Lou Christiansen, son of a Danish merchant seaman, followed a family tradition when he joined the Naval Reserve in high school. After graduation in 1965, he reported to the Navy and made three trips to Vietnam, delivering troops.

“I got to see the Far East, where it was not only a different culture but a different level of living,” he said. “It was an eye-opener for an 18-year-old kid. In Hong Kong, I saw people trying to scratch a few vegetables out of the dirt. I learned to appreciate what we have here.” 

After many years in the New York Air National Guard, Tim McArdle was called to active duty to serve in the Middle East. “They gave me five days to report,” he said. McArdle left his full-time job as an electrician at Four Winds Hospital and went to Iraq to help install communications cables. 

“It strengthened my relationship with my family,” he said. “And it gave me an opportunity to use my skills to serve my country.”

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