Even though the Malta Library building recently was expanded, people stood shoulder-to-shoulder at an event honoring seven local World War II veterans Saturday evening.
Lt. Col. David Dosier, a professor who teaches military science courses at Northern Illinois University, read the history of each veteran’s service in the war.
“They were here for us, and today, we’re here for you,” Dosier said.
The seven veterans in attendance were from Malta or other nearby towns. Del Sandberg of the Malta Land and Building Committee coordinated the event.
Each of the veterans felt the event was a nice thing the community was doing for them. Most of them had never had this type of reception before.
“It’s nice that people recognize us,” said Yngve “Morry” Johnson, who spent two years serving in the Army. “There aren’t too many of us left.”
The event also featured various items on loan from the McCormick Museum in Wheaton. There were many guns, helmets and pictures on display from the early 1940s.
For veteran Bernard Parsley, some of the memories from his time in the service are forever entrenched in his mind. His daughter, Mary, went on vacation in Japan a few years ago, but Parsley chose not to go. He joined the Army Air Corps right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which killed more than 2,000 people.
“Dad said, ‘I’m sorry, but I could never do that,’ ” Mary said, as she held back tears and clenched a used tissue in her hand. “The guys never forget.”
When the veterans left for war, they came back with plenty of stories that they openly share with family and friends. Dorothy Willrett Stoddard, a nurse with the Army, still remembers how things were before she joined the military.
“It felt like the government was calling a lot of young people into service, and I was curious to find out what they were learning,” Stoddard said.
Stoddard said that being a woman in the military was the same as being a woman anywhere outside of service at the time. She was in the Army for a little less than two years, she said.
Robert Swanson, a DeKalb native, enlisted in the Coast Guard on his 18th birthday in 1944. His mission was to bring troops from the Philippines and Japan home. He was on the Aultman ship, which had a crew of 300 people. They would bring back about 3,000 troops at a time, Swanson’s wife, Carole, said.
“Sometimes it got a little stormy,” Swanson said. “I’m glad I got to spend a couple of hours in Japan buying souvenirs.”
Don Mattson, a Marine who served from 1943 to 1946, said he’s never been to the Malta Library before. He didn’t know they had so much room inside.
The library more than doubled in size, from 1,200 to 3,600 square feet, said Kevin McArtor, member of the Malta Land and Building Committee.
“I’m surprised so many people showed up,” Mattson said, as the crowd continued to enter the doors.
After the veterans were introduced, there was an auction that sold items that were donated to the library. All proceeds went to building and construction to pay for the library expansion, Sandberg said.
McArtor said the library still needed to raise about $25,000 to pay back the loan they received from the bank. He hopes to have it finished by the end of next year.
“It’s a great opportunity for people in our community to do something good,” McArtor said. “It was an opportunity that presented itself. It’s very surprising how much support we’ve gotten.”
The support for the veterans put a smile on all their faces. It seemed almost everyone there took the time to shake a veteran’s hand and say, “Thank you for your service.”