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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Past and present come together

Friday, November 9, 2007

Local veterans Joseph S. Hrpcha and Mose Marks reminisced about their military experiences and the importance of Veterans Day Wednesday afternoon at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Brazil Post No. 1127.
Almost 50 years separate World War II veteran Mose Marks, 80, and Joseph S. Hrpcha, 32, who recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, but they share the same experiences and brotherhood that comes from serving during a wartime conflict.

Drafted at age 18, Marks said he was offshore on the Naval flagship Sierra during the largest amphibious battle of World War II in the Pacific Theater, the Battle of Okinawa.

"Anyone who doesn't admit that he gets scared in combat is a damn liar," Marks said about how a soldier handles live combat. "It's scary as hell to watch."

Assigned to guard Saddam Hussein from his own people during his trial and after experiencing active combat as a soldier of the 101st Airborne patrolling the streets of Baghdad, Iraq, Hrpcha agreed, "It's scary over there."

Keeping in touch with family during wartime is much different now than it was in World War II.

Hrpcha said he was able to call home when the telephone lines were operational, use the Internet and make video CDs to send to his family so they would know he was safe.

For Marks and other soldiers of the World War II era, keeping in touch with family was difficult.

"You'd write letters when you could and you'd get them occasionally, if they caught up with you," Marks said about keeping in touch with back home. "You couldn't tell your family where you were at anyway, so you'd try not to worry so much about it."

The men agreed that the best part of being in an active-duty soldier during wartime is the sigh of relief when they realized they were safely home.

"I was tickled to death to stand on the deck of my ship and see the Golden Gate Bridge as we came into harbor," Marks said.

"I had a huge sigh of relief. I knew I was home."

For Hrpcha, his sigh of relief came while he was looking out the window of an airplane preparing to land in Fort Campbell, Ky.

"I knew it was over then," he said. "I was safe, and back home with my family."

After four years in the military, Marks returned home, married and eventually entered law enforcement. He had a 30-year career in the Brazil City Police Department, serving 16 of those years as the Police Chief.

"I wouldn't say my four years in the military prepared me for anything that happened in my life after I was discharged," Marks said, glad he's now retired. "But I sure had a lot of experiences, visited different cultures and I saw the world."

Still getting re-oriented after returning home from Iraq, Hrpcha is looking forward to possibly opening his own small business in the Brazil area.

"It was our first time apart, so I learned a new respect for my wife and family while stationed in Iraq," Hrpcha said, admitting he's unsure what life lessons he learned during his 10-year military career. "I respect my country more now than before, our way of life, our freedoms. Everyone should have the same freedoms that we have in this country."

Although they agree the civil war in Iraq is an age-old culture clash, the two veterans disagree over the necessity of the United States involvement in Iraq.

"We needed to be over there in World War II. We were attacked," Marks said, adding that he supports military personnel, but questions the motives behind the U.S. involvement in Iraq. "I just don't think we are fighting the right enemy this time. I think we were misled into this war by politicians."

Hrpcha doesn't talk about the politics of war, but he knows where he wants to fight a war.

"I would rather the war stay in Iraq than it be here on American soil where my family is," he said.

With Veterans Day this weekend, the two men agreed on the importance of remembering the holiday.

"Veterans fight for citizens to have the right to freedom and values that this country stands for," Hrpcha said about why people should value and honor their veterans. "Veterans also fight for others around the world to have the same freedoms as we do."

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