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A flight to honor veterans

Dorothy LeClair, an Army nurse during World War II, holds a photo of herself, left, and her husband, Carl LeClair, who served in the Army during World War II. North Country Honor Flights is transporting local veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the World War II memorial there.

Dorothy LeClair, an Army nurse during World War II, holds a photo of herself, left, and her husband, Carl LeClair, who served in the Army during World War II. North Country Honor Flights is transporting local veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the World War II memorial there. Photo by Shaun Kittle.

KEESEVILLE — They are the kind of memories that don’t fade over time.

Merwin Cowles, Second Marine Division, described the noise—the roar of the planes overhead, the rattling of the machine guns—as if he had just been there.

Cowles was stationed in Saipan during World War II with the Amphibious Corp. He fought in the Battle of Sugar Loaf Hill on Okinawa Island in 1945.

“I often still dream about the war, situations where my buddies were killed in combat,” Cowles said. “When your buddy gets killed right beside you, you just sigh and keep on going.”

You have to keep on going, because for every soldier lost there are many more who are relying on you.

There’s no time to grieve.

“The first trip in, you’re not afraid because you don’t know what to expect,” Cowles said. “From the second trip on, you’re a little more careful. You realize you might not come back.”

It was Cowles’ job to transport squads of men from a ship to land in an amphibious tractor.

The tractor was also armed—it had two machine guns in the back and one in the front that were used for defense, or to take out machine gun nests.

It also transported fresh water and food to the battlefield.

After dropping the soldiers off, Cowles would pick up wounded men and take them back to the hospital ship.

“I was no hero,” Cowles said. “We just did our jobs.”

It is clear as Cowles speaks that he believes that, too—that he and his fellow World War II veterans were just doing a job that needed to be done.

On May 29, 2004, the first-ever memorial to World War II veterans was dedicated to the honor of those who fought in that war.

One year later, the Honor Flight Network brought 12 World War II veterans from Ohio to see the memorial.

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