Veterans of Bucks County

Friday, February 13, 2009

Isadore 'Izzy' Brosbe
WWII Vet ate ice cream in order to serve his fellow man.

By Tim Chicirda

Isadore Brosbe, more affectionately known as “Izzy,” has been known throughout his life in Bristol Borough as a local, friendly pharmacist in town, serving residents for the past 61 years.What many do not know about Izzy is that he was also a pharmacist in the United States Army. However, Army T-4 Sergeant Brosbe does not have fond memories of being stationed overseas in his field hospital outfit, which he describes as being “like a M.A.S.H. unit.”

Izzy’s entrance into the United States Armed Forces was not too simple, as the Burlington High School graduate was turned away by the U.S. Navy when he first applied.

A small, young man, Brosbe was turned away because he was 20 pounds under the required minimum weight limit. This would not stop Brosbe, however.

Upon learning that he was a bit too thin to help defend his country, Izzy approached the first hurdle of his military career, loading himself with an extreme amount of calories.

Brosbe went home and began a streak of drinking gallons upon gallons of milk-shakes and eating a large amount of banana splits.

Soon enough, Izzy had packed on the much needed pounds and now enlisted in the U.S. Army.

Brosbe served as an Army pharmacist in both North Africa and the China Burma India Theater.

According to Izzy’s wife of 62 years, Harriet, “He doesn’t like rice to this day.”

Brosbe and his men spent many of their military days flying over “the Hump.”

In World War II, the Hump was the name given by Allied pilots to the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains. Here, American forces flew from India to China to resupply the Flying Tigers and the Chinese Government of Chiang Kai-shek. The region is noted for high mountain ranges and huge parallel gorges, and transverses the upper regions of the larger rivers of South-East Asia.

Izzy and company also flew over northwestern Burma, which was heavily patrolled by enemy Japanese forces.

Brosbe recalled the various types of geographical locations and weather conditions he faced, while in the Army, though according to him he “only suffered minor injuries, nothing major.”

Brosbe also had many connections to the military, aside from his own membership.

Izzy’s younger brother, Edwin, joined the U.S. Army just months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Four years younger that his big brother, Edwin currently lives in Oregon and is retired from his job as a Veterans Administration research bacteriologist.

Bacteriologists study and investigate a group of single-celled micro-organisms that are classed as bacteria. Edwin’s job may have included designing and conducting experiments, understanding health and safety issues, making observations and drawing conclusions, writing reports and scientific papers and presenting papers at scientific meetings and conferences.

Izzy’s youngest daughter Geri was taught art by renowned local sculptor Joseph Pavone, who was profiled on this very page before as a local veteran hero.

Upon returning home from his military service, Izzy owned Brosbe’s Drug Store in Bristol Township from 1948 until 1986, before selling the business.

One of Brosbe’s most famed customers was none other than Bristol Borough’s most prolific politician, Senator Joseph R. Grundy.

Izzy often tells a story about the time Senator Grundy took him to his side of the political spectrum.

Often referred to as “Mr. Republican,” Senator Grundy asked Brosbe if he was registered to vote.

After telling the Bristol legend that he was not, Grundy replied by asking what time the drug store opened up.

After Izzy told Grundy that he opened at 7 a.m., Grundy said, “You’re opening up at 9 a.m. My driver will be downstairs at 7 a.m. in the Buick to take you to Doylestown to register Republican.”

And the rest is history.

And despite your affiliation with either political party, this story relays the message that Grundy often had for society: to truly care and be active in both local and national politics.

This is what Brosbe did. He was a great citizen at home and a hero overseas.

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Warren Kimmel: From boy to man

The Horsham veteran of the China-Burma-India Theater of World War II shares his legacy with students.

By Bob Staranowicz correspondent

The China-Burma-India Theater (CBI), often referred to as The Forgotten Theater of World War II, was the longest combat operation of the War from early 1942 until March of 1946. Of the more than 12 million who served in World War II, only about 250, 000 - about 2 percent - were assigned to the CBI Theater. One of those CBI Veterans is Warren Kimmel.

Warren was born in Philadelphia in 1924. After attending Dobbins Vocational School, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942. The US Army Air Corps formally existed between 1941 and 1947 as an autonomous part of the US Army. It was then off to basic training in Atlantic City, NJ where he contracted pleurisy and lost a week of training. After basic training, he attended Stewart Technical School in New York, to be trained as an aircraft mechanic. Once his classes were finished, Warren returned to NJ for additional overseas training.

After training, Warren received orders for overseas duty. His first assignment was at Chabua in the Assam Valley in India. Warren arrived in India at the height of monsoon season. He was later sent to Karachi serving as a flight engineer and crew chief for C-46 and C-47 aircraft. The main objective of the troops in India was to supply and support the 14th Air Force and China by providing the war materials and manpower to get it to where it was needed. Army Air Forces flew supplies “Over the Hump” from India to China. Towards the end of the war, up to 80, 000 tons of supplies, including troops, cargo and animals such as mules were sent monthly to China. It was the goal of CBI to keep Japan out of India and to keep China in the war as an ally.

When Warren arrived in India, 25 of the 28 assigned aircraft were in the “bone yard” i.e., not fit for service. With the ingenuity of his fellow soldiers, all 28 of the aircraft were deemed serviceable after only a few months. This was done by attaining scrap parts from every available source.

Warren earned his Wings with over 800 hours in the air, attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant. He returned to the States in 1945 after the announcement of Japan’s surrender. He was awarded a Victory Medal, an Asiatic Pacific Medal with battle star, and a Presidential Unit Citation medal.

Warren shared many of his other interesting life experiences with me. While training in N.Y., he was at the Stage Door Canteen one evening and got to dance with Shirley Booth who was performing in “My Sister Eileen.” Warren also met his future wife, Kathleen, while training in N.Y. The highlight of his service was the education that he received and that he was able to see parts of the world that he would never have traveled to if not for the service. “My time in the service made a man out of a boy.”

Not all times were good times though. When I asked Warren what it was like when he returned to the states via Miami, he told me that there was no one at the airport to meet his unit and someone had to call the closest base so that the returning soldiers could be picked up. He also shared with me the most uneasy part of his tour, being the time when he was alone in the jungle guarding his plane with Japanese all around the area. “It was the longest night of my life,” he told me.

Being away from home is always difficult on those who serve and Warren spent over two years in India. Warren damaged his hand in India and while in the hospital came down with malaria and lost 40 pounds in two weeks. He did share with me that he was fortunate to have the most dedicated and hard-working nurses administering to him during his hospital stay.

Warren returned to the states in 1945 and married the woman he met in NY. He and Kathleen were married for 59 years before she passed away in October of 2004.

Warren currently lives in Horsham, and is a member of VFW Post 175 and the CBI Veterans Association. He has three sons - Brian, Warren and Scott - all who have served their country, two in the Navy and one in the Air Force. Brian served two tours in Vietnam and was on the USS Forrestal in July of 1967 when it was attacked leaving 132 crewmen dead, 62 injured and two missing and presumed dead.

The spirit of all the military forces that served in the CBI Theater could not be found in any other World War II area.

Warren has demonstrated that spirit with his service.

Warren continues service to his country by speaking at various schools in Bucks and Montgomery County through the “Vets in the Class Room” program and at the Abington and Doylestown Libraries through the “WW II Lecture Series” on the CBI topic. It would be well worth your while to attend one of his sessions.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

James A. Ryan

By Bob Staranowicz, Correspondent

“I would not swap the experience for anything, but I wouldn’t and I couldn’t repeat it.”

Born in Lancaster County, PA, Jim’s military service began with his enlistment in the Army Specialized Training Reserve Program in April of his senior year of high school.

Jim enlisted in the Army rather than waiting to be drafted because, as he reflected, “my Country needed me.” He was sent to Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and began his infantry training and was also enrolled in an engineering course. After a short leave, he was sent to the local induction center and shipped to Camp Croft, SC for basic infantry training in preparation for combat duty in Europe where he was assigned to the 8th Infantry Division, also known as the “Pathfinders.”
“Because of my training at VMI, I was promoted to the temporary rank of ‘Saltwater Sergeant’.” This was a temporary non-commissioned officer position that put Jim in charge of a unit during the Atlantic Crossing.
“While travelling from Boston on our troop ship, we were heading Southeast towards Bermuda but changed direction. We headed Northeast enroute to the English Channel.” This maneuver was a strategy used to fool any submarines that may have been tracking the ship.

The change in course was met by a storm and heavy seas and many were sickened by the movement of the sea. “After the storm, the sea turned to a beautiful blue and white. We approached the English Channel, but steered northward and rounded Ireland where we were met by two destroyer escort vessels. But, we were still attacked by two U-Boats that had been lying in wait on the bottom with their engines off. Depth charges were dropped and a Short Sunderland Flying Boat appeared and sprayed the area with tracer rounds.” The Flying Boat had its name taken from a town in northeast England; the Sunderland was one of the most powerful flying boats used in the Second World War. It was mainly involved in fending off threats by German U-boats in the Atlantic Theater Battles.

“After we arrived in Glasgow, we learned that one of the two submarines that attacked us had been sunk.”

“It was the Battle for the Rhineland where I had my closest call. After attempting to scale a wall and met with illumination from a powerful spotlight, I hit the dirt. I noticed that an 88mm shell had gone through the wall where my back had been. I saw a tank approach and it lowered its gun directly at me. I couldn’t get any closer to the ground. Fortunately, the shell missed me and penetrated the dirt under me blowing me about eight feet into the air. As the tank continued to fire, two other GIs and I were pinned down. We thought that the tank was going to run us down. When we thought we had breathed our last, the US artillery intervened and the tank retreated. I was wounded but not severely enough to be separated from my unit.”

“We were one of the first regular infantry units to return from Europe and were slated for the Pacific Theater, most likely for the invasion of Japan.” While awaiting those orders, Jim had returned to the US at Norfolk, very happy to be back on American soil. Luckily, Jim did not have to make that trip to Japan, the dropping of the Atomic bomb prompted the surrender of Japan and the war was all but over.Jim continued his service as a platoon sergeant before his discharge.

After leaving the service, he attended various area schools, thanks to the GI Bill, before receiving his BS and MS in Chemistry from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. Jim’s dad, James Francis Ryan, was also a veteran and was wounded while serving as an ambulance driver in World War I during the Meuse Argonne Offensive – probably the greatest American battle in the First World War.Jim worked for several pharmaceutical companies as a research chemist before retiring from Merck in 1994.

Jim currently lives in Doylestown with his wife, Helen. The Ryans have four children and 12 grandchildren.

Jim is still active in veteran’s issues and is a member of American Legion Post 210 and the Doylestown VFW Post 175.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Doug Reilly

Chiropractor Dr. Doug Reilly adjusts a fellow soldier (above) during his time in Iraq.
Doug Reilly and his fellow soldiers pose (below) with a Philadelphia Eagles banner in Iraq.

Bucks County chiropractor found his civilian job
was a great help to his fellow Army servicemen.

By Bob Staranowicz

“When one of my buddies serving with me in Iraq hurt his back, it was a very lucky day for me.”

Doug Reilly was serving in Iraq at a prison camp near Tallil when a fellow soldier hurt his back. Doug was not only bored but he was uncomfortable with his duties of “counting Iraqi dinar found on Iraqi prisoners, cataloguing their possessions and moving the prisoners throughout the country.”

So when his hurt friend came to him, Doug, who has a Chiropractic practice with his wife, Anne, in Plumsteadville, was very eager to help. He cured his buddy’s ailments.

This act of camaraderie resulted in Doug being able to use his talents in the war zone. His “patient” told his colonel about Doug’s talent and the colonel then allowed Doug to practice his chiropractic talents for up to two hours a day. This was an unusual opportunity since the Army did not formally recognize chiropractors. There have been some advances in that thinking by the military by way of the Chiropractic Health Care Demonstration Project. Doug feels that chiropractic care is vital to the combat readiness of our men and women serving our country.

For those soldiers who need chiropractic care, they must pay out of their own pockets.
Doug was born in Somerville, N.J., but currently resides in Plumsteadveille. He attended Palisades High School in Kintnersveille and went on to earn his undergraduate degree at Lock Haven University. He later attended Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa.
Doug joined the Army in 1996.

“I joined the Army because it was my patriotic duty,” he said.

He also wanted to take advantage of the educational opportunities of serving in the military. Doug’s service was mostly as a reservist. Doug was on active duty for about a year and a half during the war, three of those months were pre-war, followed by a year in Iraq and three months in the states after leaving Iraq.

Doug’s main duty was “driving all over Iraq, transporting prisoners in buses and dump trucks” before the United States was fully engaged in Iraq.

“We were part of an advance party looking for a convoy,” he said. “We had to hitchhike from Kuwait to the Tallil Airbase.”

This was probably the most dangerous time for Doug while serving in Iraq.

“We did get shelled on a fairly regular basis while we were in Baghdad at the High Value detainee facility,” he said.

Similar to how most troops serving overseas feel, Doug missed his family and friends the most. But, as a doctor whose purpose is helping people, he missed his practice and his patients, as well.
Doug left the Army as a staff sergeant and was also awarded a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq. He would like to return to Iraq someday — “If my wife would let me,” he points out.

Doug returned to his practice, Reilly Family Chiropractic, upon his return to the U.S. and picked up right where he left off, with his love of family and involvement in sports and helping his patients. After all the horrific food in Iraq, he once again was able to enjoy a good meal. Doug continues to serve his patients as he served his country with purpose and the enjoyment of the accomplishment of helping those who need him.

Doug is also of member of Doylestown VFW Post 175 and is the current Commander of American Legion Post 210.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Claude Donaldson

Maj. Col. Claude Donaldson (above, right) gets a promotion to lieutenant colonel by Col. A.E. Blewett. Today, Donaldson (below) volunteers for the AARP.

A softball game at Fort Dix cost this Bucks resident
a chance at combat, but led him to his future wife.

By Peter Ciferri Editor

Claude Donaldson wanted to see battle.

His family had a long history of air and infantrymen in both World Wars, and when he joined the Army just before the Korean War, the Chatham, N.J., native and current Lower Makefield resident expected to be an infantry platoon leader.

That path ended one afternoon in 1952, when during a softball game at Ft. Dix, a fellow solder slid into third base spikes out, breaking Donaldson’s leg just above the ankle and taking him out of commission for a year.

“I had volunteered to go to Korea because I knew I wanted to stay in the service,” Donaldson remembered. “I would have liked to have had a chance to see how I would have done.”

The broken bones put Donaldson in a cast for a year. By the time he was healed and on a plane for Korea, the cease fire had been called and the war came to a close.

Donaldson explained that while he was relieved to not face combat in Korea, he knew the military would be his life’s work and felt it would be appropriate to have that experience.

“I felt that I needed to get some combat experience, but as things worked out, I didn’t get that opportunity,” Donaldson said. “There but for a broken ankle.”

Claude Donaldson joined the Army in 1948, starting a 21-year career that would land him in Hawaii, New York, Virginia, Germany and Japan, spending much of his time working at a military prison and an intelligence office.

But perhaps his biggest break was the one in his leg, as the broken bones that kept him out of Korea also led Claude to his future wife.

Donaldson admits that had he gone to Korea, “it was a strong possibility that I would have gotten my butt handed to me,” but after his injury, the eager soldier was transferred to a base in Arkansas.

One evening, he and a fellow soldier were setting up a double date when Claude’s date was forced to cancel. After a little digging, his friend remembered another girl: Helen Turner. The group went out for some evening drinks and Claude came away with a marriage that would last over three decades and give him four children.

“There were a lot of things that were kind of ironic,” Donaldson reflected.

Claude continued in the Army after the Korean cease-fire and was just settling down with his growing family in Hawaii when he got orders to report to Vietnam.

Entering the country, Donaldson was greeted with the sober reality of war. His transport boat was surrounded by armed guards and helicopters — the only way it would reach port safely. Later, his transport bus broke down, leaving a crew of soldiers in the middle of the jungle with weapons, but no ammunition.

“The only person armed was the driver,” Donaldson recalls.

Luckily, these were among the closest calls for Donaldson.

In the intelligence sector, Donaldson’s office helped train the spies and gather the tips that would help U.S. forces infiltrate Vietnamese camps. And while his job was in an office, his unit still remained vigilant.

“There’s always the possibility that something could happen,” Donaldson said.

One day, a truck loaded with explosives rammed into a Vietnamese police station right next to his barracks and grenade attacks on his unit’s Jeeps were common. Around 30 of his men were injured that way.

Just a few more close calls in the life of Claude Donaldson.

His last close call came when he left Vietnam. On his ride to leave the country, Donaldson passed a Jeep that had recently been attacked. Only later would he find out that his replacement — who survived — was riding in that very Jeep.

“They had some horrendous battles with the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese,” Donaldson said, explaining that the Tet Offensive started shortly after he left. “I can’t say if we’d have been there still what would have happened to us.”

Back in America, Donaldson worked a few more years at his old post in Hawaii before retiring from the service in 1969.

Helen passed away in 1988 and Claude has since reacquainted and married an old high school friend. Today, he volunteers for the AARP, teaching driver’s education refresher courses and helping thousands of seniors prepare their taxes. But most of all, Donaldson is proud of his four children — two doctors, a lawyer and an engineer — who, peppered across the country, always give him somewhere to go and grandchildren to visit.

“It’s been an interesting lifetime. I’ve been real happy.”

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Joseph Pavone

Joseph Pavone’s artwork helped beautify Bristol, but before that, he was a U.S. Armed Forces photographer in Germany.

Bucks County artist and sculptor got his inspiration
while stationed in Germany during the Korean War.

By Tim Chicirda Editor

Many people in both Bristol Township and Bristol Borough are familiar with the great artistic mind of Joseph Pavone, but many do not know that he is, in fact, someone who needs to be recognized for his military history, as well.

Pavone is known for his work as a sculptor and artist. His creative abilities have helped to beautify both the township and the borough. But, before all of that, Pavone was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Corp. Joe Pavone was drafted into the Korean War under the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Pavone was a MOS-Army Photographer in Germany.

Pavone’s career in the military began with training in a nearby Fort Monmouth, N.J., photo school.

Some of the things that Pavone photographed were installations that were moved behind the Rhine River in Germany. Pavone used a 4x5 speed graphics camera, a model primarily used in the 1940s.

While in Germany, Pavone’s real interest took shape. While stationed in Karlsruhe, Germany, at the foot of the Black Forest, Pavone studied art under famous oil painter Helmut Meyers.
While continuing his civic duties, Pavone was exposed to an extremely creative environment, where he learned and began building inspiration for his later projects.

“I was always interested in art ever since I was a baby. [I] used to draw ever since I can remember,” said Pavone, “I drew my way through school.”

After arriving back home, the 1945 Bristol High School graduate began painting and sculpting. However, when the 1990s rolled around, Pavone really began to make Bristol Borough and Township enriched in beautiful history.

In 1991, the Bristol Lions Club erected the Joseph R. Grundy Monument outside of the Grundy Library. The head and shoulders of Bristol’s most important historical figure stands proudly with his back to the Delaware River, making it a beautiful scene.

Grundy was a United States Senator, Bristol Councilman, wealthy industrialist and philanthropist. Grundy always believed in local involvment in small towns, something surely followed by Pavone.

Another important historical figure honored by Pavone was Christopher Columbus in 1992. In fact, Pavone commissioned the Columbus 500 Foundation, honoring the five-century anniversary of the famed 1492 voyage to America.

The monument, created by Pavone, is in place to honor Italian Americans who followed Columbus’ link from Europe to America. It stand among all of the beautiful monument along the Borough’s wharf.

Pavone’s most recent and veteran-based monument stands in Bristol Township, directly outside of the Municipal Building.

Unveiled in 2006, the Bristol Township War Dog Memorial has attracted many war veterans honor not only fallen soldiers during war time, but the pet companions who were very important in many wars.

According to Bristol Township, over the course of our nation’s military history, tens of thousands of War Dogs served during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf war, and also more recently in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

American Wsar Dogs are credited, not only with companionship, but with courageously saving soldiers’ lives. It is estimated that around 10,000 U.S. and allied lives were saved during the Vietnam War alone.

The dogs tracked, tunneled and found mine and booby traps, among many of their other duties.
Pavone’s work did not end there though. Pavone is also credited with the design of many other things in Bristol Borough, including part of the newly renovated Bristol Borough Hall and the famous “Welcome Friend” sign upon entering the borough.

“Welcome Friend” has became the motto and a staple of Bristol Borough.

Anyway that Pavone can give history back to the people of his home town is great deed in his eyes. Pavone is a member of the Memorial Foundation and the Bristol Cultural and Historical Society in Bristol Borough.

The 1969 Bristol Borough Citizen of the Year still resides in Bristol with his wife Phyllis. All of Pavone’s children live nearby as well.

Pavone continues to live through the words of one of his inspirations, Joseph Grundy: “If a man does not take pride in his own town, he isn’t likely to give a rap for his country.”

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Albin A. Rogers

U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Sgt. Albin A. Rogers said bombing the refineries in Europe were the most important of the 35 to 40 missions he flew. (Photo by Petra Chesner Schlatter)

Bucks County resident saw 35-40 air missions
aboard B-24 bombers during World War II.

By Petra Chesner Schlatter Editor

U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Sgt. Albin A. Rogers saw 35 to 40 air missions in Europe during World War II. He enlisted at age 19 at Grand Central Terminal, New York City.

Though he trained as a pilot, his job was to “watch the fuel consumption, take care that the engines performed correctly and to make any possible repair to damage that I could to keep the plane flying.”

Rogers was a flight engineer. He said the engineer probably knew more than anybody else on the plane, including the pilot. “He just had to fly it right.”

He flew in B-24s, which were dubbed “The Real American Bomber.” The plane was also called “The Liberator” and was a heavy bomber like a B-17.

Rogers was born in 1923 in Newark, N.J., and grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. He will celebrate his 85th birthday on June 17. Rogers and his wife, Anna, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this year. They have lived in Yardley Borough since 1966.

He is a longtime member of the Knights of Columbus and is an active parishioner at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church in Yardley.

Rogers started as a private and advanced to the rank of technical sergeant with five stripes. He was trained on B-17s before he went to B-24s “because they didn’t have any engineers for B-24’s.”

The Tuskegee Airmen, a group of specially trained black men, ‘flew cover.’ “They were fighter pilots. They were very good,” Rogers emphasized.

“Basically, we bombed targets in Austria, Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and northern Italy. After Ploesti in Romania —that was after the Ploesti raids — the biggest targets were Vienna and Linz in Austria; Regensburg, Germany; the refineries in Poland, and in northern Germany.

“The worst was Vienna because they had concentrated all their Flak guns as they kept retreating. As they kept retreating, the targets became more dangerous. That’s where we lost more planes to Flak than fighters. Flak is anti-aircraft.

“The biggest gun they had was the 88-mm. That was an 88-mm gun that could be used on ground and air targets. Flak was a German gun — a deadly weapon.”

Rogers said the most important missions were “where we destroyed the refineries because they needed fuel and oil, and we knocked everything out. They had planes, but they couldn’t fly anymore because they didn’t have anymore fuel or any other materials used in flying oil, jet fuel, etc.

“We knocked the refineries out — that was part of the plan between Churchill and Eisenhower: to hit Germany through ‘The Underbelly.’ We hit them from down below. The ones from England came from the north. That’s why they called it ‘The Underbelly of Europe.’”

Beside The Flak, Rodgers said, the next thing that was dangerous was the cold.

“It was like about 60 degrees below zero or colder when you were up 26,000 feet or higher,” he noted.

“The other thing was flying over the Alps was rather dangerous — especially in winter if you had to bail out or something. There was no way you could survive.”

Rogers was in the 484th Bomb Squadron. There were four squadrons in a group.
“We tried to put up a maximum of 48 planes from the group,” hey says. “Each squadron would put up 12 planes for a maximum effort.

“We were part of the 15th Air Force, 49th Wing. We were stationed at Torretta Airfield in Cerignola, Italy. We were part of the 15th Air Force located in Foggia, Italy.”

After more than 40 years, Rogers still keeps his draft card in his wallet. He was more interested in flying rather than being in the infantry.

When asked to talk about the Nazis, Rogers said, “World domination was just a wild dream that Hitler had. The Nazis were a culture of death,” he said.

Today, Rogers is active in the Yardley-Makefield VFW Post 6393 and the Knowles-Doyle American Legion Post 317. With the VFW, he has been a service officer for about 10 years. He has been the local VFW’s chaplain since 2006. He recently became chaplain of the local American Legion.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bob Staranowicz

Bob Staranowicz, a 14-year resident of Doylestown, (above) authored a book and co-authored a play about the experiences he and others had while serving in the Vietnam War. During his time in Vietnam, it was the children at the Kim Long orphanage (below) along the Perfume River that stuck with him the most. He and other soldiers would often bring the candy and toys they got from home to the children.

Doylestown Patriot contributor was
drafted for the Vietnam War in 1968.

By Janine Logue Editor

It was the first time Bob Staranowicz had ever flown in an airplane. The year was 1968, he was 21 years old and headed off to Vietnam.

Staranowicz, a Doylestown resident for the last 14 years, graduated from Northeast Catholic High School in 1966 and went to work for Sears Roebuck. By 1967 he had completed training at a computer school and was working for the Sears data processing department.

By 1968, he had been drafted.

Staranowicz decided to join the Army, and in August 1968 he started basic training at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and then transferred to the Fort Monmouth New Jersey Electronics School.

“Since it was so close to home, I was fortunate that I made it home every weekend but one for the 11 months I was there,” said Staranowicz.

It was just 30 days after completing his training that Staranowicz got on to that first flight.

“I went to Vietnam with a friend I had met in basic, and on the way over we landed in Tokyo and the plane was disabled,” said Staranowicz. “We were all sent to a hotel until the plane was repaired. Joe and I decided to visit a local bar and after several Sapporos, we almost missed the plane. It was on the tarmac ready to leave when we arrived by cab.”

When Staranowicz finally made it to Vietnam, he arrived at the Army’s Long Bihn Post, where he received orders for the 101st Airborne Division, HQ - 501st Signal Group.

“Most of my friends except for a few were stationed in the Saigon area. I went to Camp Eagle which was near the Imperial City of Hue,” said Staranowicz.

Staranowicz and the other members of his division were charged with installing communications equipment via helicopter to firebases and base camps in the 101st AO (Area of Operation).

“This included sites near DMZ and Ashau Valley and Quang Tri. The most remote site I can remember is Camp Carroll, along Highway 9, between the Dong Ha and the Laotian border,” said Staranowicz.

DMZ refers to a demilitarized zone, a combat-free area between two enemies. The DMZ in Vietnam, which was created by an agreement known as the Geneva Accords, ran parallel to Highway 9 and marked the boarder between North and South Vietnam.

“The most memorable time of my service in Vietnam was not the military portion, but the time spent visiting a local orphanage in Kim Long, a poor area of Huê, Vietnam, along the Perfume River,” said Staranowicz. “We would take our laundry to this place run by French nuns. We always took candy or toys sent from home and the children always appreciated anything that we would give them. A nurse friend of mine who was stationed in nearby Phu Bai went back to Vietnam in 1999 and visited the orphanage that is still there today.”

Staranowicz came home from Vietnam with a rank of Specialist 5 (E-5), a Bronze Star and an Army Commendation medal.

“I returned to the states with 10 months left to serve in October 1970,” said Staranowicz. “In November of 1970, I married the girl — Mary Anne — I met before I had left for Vietnam. We packed up the car a week later and left for Fort Huachucha, Arizona — a four and a half day drive.”

Staranowicz left the Army on Friday, Aug. 13, 1971 and returned to work at Sears.
Since leaving the Army, Staranowicz has worked for AT&T, received a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from LaSalle University and become an accomplished writer.

Currently, Staranowicz works for IBM and writes a column for the Bucks InterCounty Newspaper Group, including the Doylestown Patriot.

Staranowicz authored a book entitled “Chapter One - The Story of Vic Charles,” which tells the story of a soldier who served in Vietnam.

“The character experiences some true and some fictionalized stories of my and other friend’s experiences in Vietnam and the results of those experiences on his personal life 20 years later,” said Staranowicz.

Other works by Staranowicz include a small collection of poems dedicated to Charles Glenn III, a friend of his who was killed in Vietnam and a play, which he co-authored, about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

The play is entitled “Etchings - The Stories Behind the Wall,” and is available to any school interested in using it in their curriculum. It has already been performed at Fayetteville State University and various high schools in North Carolina.

For more information about the play, you can contact Bob Staranowicz at

The poems can be found at

Staranowicz is married with two daughters. He is a member of VFW Post 175 and VVA Post 210.
To this day, Vietnam remains a big part of Staranowicz’s life.

“I am considering a trip back to Vietnam to visit where I had served,” said Staranowicz. “I know that the orphanage is still there and I have been told that Camp Eagle still exists. I also would like to visit Saigon where IBM has an office and where I have developed relationships with several of the employees there.”

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

John Farruggio

In the jungle of North Vietnam, you had
to fight the enemy and the elements.

By Peter Ciferri Editor

"You can have all the training in the world in basic training, but nothing prepares you for your first combat.”

Newtown native John Farruggio got that cold realization his first week in Vietnam, when his Army 4th Infantry Division found themselves pinned down by heavy fire in the central highlands of North Vietnam.

When Farruggio and his men came across a North Vietnamese battalion in the mountainous triple canopy jungle terrain, the 4th Infantry found themselves split up and struggling to survive. Farruggio says one of the four platoons in his company was “annihilated,” taking their troops from 48 to four men in a single battle. They were forever known as the “lost platoon” of Vietnam.

Farruggio never thought he’d see that kind of fighting, let alone step foot in Asia when he was growing up on State Street in Newtown. A 1966 Council Rock High School graduate and first-year student at then fledgling Bucks County Community College (BCCC), Farruggio was just like any other teenager. He split his time between taking classes as BCCC and working for his father’s trucking company and spending time at Newtown Theatre, which his family also owned.

That all changed, however, when in late 1966, Farruggio was drafted into the Army to be trained and sent to Vietnam by May 1, 1967.

“Nothing prepares you for the jungle itself,” Farruggio remembered. During a year in the central highlands, the infantryman said he was constantly bombarded by natural elements: constant monsoon rain, centipedes, mosquitoes infected with malaria, red ants and jungle rot. “The war wasn’t so much fighting the North Vietnamese Army as it was putting up with the elements of the jungle. Eighty percent of my company came down with malaria.”

Every night the 4th Infantry would circle the wagons, creating a circle of foxholes surrounded by trip wired flares and other booby-traps that served at the first line of defense to alert the men of incoming troops. During the days, Farruggio was on search and destroy missions, walking between three and seven miles each day with an 85-pound rucksack on his back. The group was only given rations every three days and were often awake for nearly as long.

“The camaraderie was great with the initial guys,” Farruggio said, describing his platoon as a fraternity. While traveling through four search and destroy operations in the Iron Triangle, the platoon acquired a mascot in a monkey named Georgie-Girl and once came upon a pack of marauding orangutans they initially mistook for an ambush.

And there was also the fighting. Following that first brutal week in the highlands, Farruggio was awarded the infantry “Baptism under fire” badge. “If you see that on an infantryman, you don’t even have to question that he was in combat,” he said. “A lot of people think that everybody who goes to war zones rights. That’s not the case.”

A few months later, Farruggio found himself in one of Vietnam’s bloodiest battles: Dak To — a 17-day battle along the Cambodian border in which 3,000 North Vietnamese were killed.

“The mission was horrific,” Farruggio explained. “Jet air strikes into the mountains, gun ships firing. It took three or four days just to make any progress up the hill.” He says the 173rd Airborne would go ahead of the infantry, blanketing the ground with bombs and bullets in an attempt to rouse the North Vietnamese from their foxholes and underground networked tunnels.“

It’s very hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it. You dig a shallow foxhole and you just stay alert,” he said. “You’re on the edge and you try not to let your nerves get the best of you. You’re fighting for yourself and your buddies. You’re just fighting for survival.”

Farruggio did survive, but only after taking shrapnel from a B-40 rocket in his back. After two weeks in a Quinn Yan hospital, the soldier rejoined his company, only to contract malaria and go back to the hospital for another three weeks. The year had gotten quiet for the men of the 4th Infantry, but they could have never anticipated that just around the corner was the ace up the North Vietnamese Army’s sleeve.

The 4th Infantry was stationed in the middle of the jungle when the New Year’s Eve Tet Offensive started. But with a proud history and prolific strength, the infantry was immediately choppered to nearby Play Ku City, which was under attack. “It was a pretty nasty firefight,” Farruggio remembered.

His leadership and bravery well established, the Newtown native was promoted to Sgt. E-5 and given a rifle squad to look after following Tet.

“You stop worrying about yourself so much and you have 10 men to worry about,” Farruggio said. “You could cause life or death with any judgment you made.”

In the following months, Farruggio’s company would suffer 90 percent wounded and 60 percent killed in action. He said every time his men would die, new trainees were waiting to replace them.

“By that time, you didn’t even want to really get to know them. You figured their chances of survival were slim,” he said. “It’s probably one of the hardest management jobs anyone could face in life.”

Farruggio came away from the war with a presidential unit citation, Purple Heart and other military honors, but like many Vietnam veterans, he was often ignored by the country for whom he served. But he says the ill-effects of an overwhelmed Veterans Affairs Department of the 1970s and 80s that made so many Vietnam veterans suffer further, has helped teach the VA lessons about how to properly diagnose and treat mentally and physically scarred soldiers from the wars of today.

“I’m just thankful I made it. I don’t know how I made it or why I made it, but I made it,” he said, remembering an infantryman’s credo. “You never lived until you almost died. For those of us who fought for freedom, life has a special flavor that the protected will never know.”

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ed Krensel

Ed Krensel (above) is the CEO and chairman of the Enecon Corporation, a manufacturer of high performance polymers. One of Krensel’s biggest customers is the U.S. Navy. As a non-commissioned officer in charge of all special services and USO shows for the 8th Army, Ed Krensel met several stars of the times including singer and movie star Debbie Reynolds (below, second from left).

Bucks veteran dodged sniper fire
while on guard duty in Korea.

By Bob Staranowicz

The characteristic “click-click” sound from the bolt-action of an M-1 rifle could be heard from beyond the perimeter of the base camp. Strong lights illuminated the bunker line as North Korean ex-POWs ambled just across the outer limits of the base. The war was over, the truce in effect, but pilfered weapons were being used by the former enemy to snipe at the U.S. soldiers as they performed their nightly guard duty in a fully illuminated “fish-bowl.” As several shots rang out, they scurried for cover. Fortunately, on this particular night, however, no one was hit; no one was injured.

The Korean War began in June of 1950 when South Korea was invaded by troops of North Korea. The war continued for over three years and officially ended on July 27, 1953. In Panmunjom, 18 official copies of Korean Armistice Agreement were signed after over 150 meetings spread over two years. The truce went into effect at 10 a.m. on the 27th. All hostilities were suspended and all military forces were withdrawn from a 4,000 meter wide area — the Demilitarized Zone or DMZ. Even though the armistice ceased all hostilities, it was not, and is still not, a permanent treaty.

American troops still had a presence in South Korea after the end of the war and they still do today. Ed Krensel, a Doylestown resident, was sent to Korea after being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1953. Krensel was born in Philadelphia in 1933. After graduating from Olney High School, he attended Temple University for two years. He then entered the military and was off to Camp Pickett, Virginia for basic training, as well as his medical training. After his training was completed, it was off to Korea to serve in the medical aid field. This assignment was short-lived, however, and Ed moved on to serving as the NCO (non-commissioned officer) in charge of all Special Services and USO shows for the 8th Army. In that capacity, he was able to meet many stars of the times, including singer and movie star, Debbie Reynolds, pop music sister duo The Bell Sisters, and the Kim Sisters —a trio who knew no English but memorized the words to American songs. One other personality, who was very supportive of the Armed Forces, was Johnny Grant. Johnny was an American radio personality and television producer who also served as the honorary mayor of Hollywood. He made 15 trips to Korea and during that war provided wounded servicemen with free telephone calls home when they arrived at California’s Travis Air Force Base Hospital. His program was called Grant’s “GI Phone Fund.” This practice is still alive today — Operation Uplink — providing calling cards for our troops serving all over the world.

While Krensel would have liked to have stayed in Korea, he contracted jaundice and was sent to an Army Hospital in Japan. There, he completed his two-year draft commitment. While in Japan, he was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant, serving as an entertainment specialist in the Special Services organization. Although Krensel was in Korea after hostilities had ended, he still had some close calls from sniper fire while on guard duty. The only part of the service that Ed disliked was basic training. He found the rest of his service enjoyable and made many friends. It is these friendships that he misses the most after leaving the service. Ed has been back to Korea five times since leaving duty to visit his old units in Panmunjom in the village of Munsan.

Ed has been happily married to his wife, Vivian, since 1977. He is the CEO and chairman of Enecon Corporation, a manufacturer of high performance polymers. Enecon’s High Performance Polymer Composites Division provides an extraordinary range of repair and reclamation products for all types of fluid flow machinery, equipment, buildings and plant structures. The U.S. Navy is one of Enecon’s biggest customers.

Ed has been a Philadelphia Mummer since 1966 in the Fancy Division. He also enjoys clay shooting in his leisure time. Ed is active member of VFW Post 175 in Doylestown.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Tom Zogorski

Tom Zogorski (above) trained some of America’s elite flyers while
serving at Childress Air Force Base in Childress, Tex. Zogorski
(below) looks over some photos from his time in the service.
(Photo by Peter

Bucks County resident found that training bombardiers
during World War II could be a dangerous task.

By Peter Ciferri Editor

A cross-wind sweeps across a shortened runway, an inexperienced student pilot overcorrects for takeoff and you suddenly find yourself co-pilot of a small plane spinning 360-degrees, landing gear and one wing collapsing against the ground.

Moments like this were among the challenges 1st Lt. Tom Zogorski of Newtown faced while serving as an instructor at Childress Air Force Base in Childress, Tex. during World War II.

The pilot in this story was a young member of the Women’s Auxiliary Corps, and as one of the more experienced instructors at the base, Zogorski was assigned to train the flight’s bombardier. But neither he nor the pilot ever expected the wild ride.

“That’s about the most excitement I think I ever had,” Zogorski said. “The plane went down on one wing and it spun around in circles.”

Tom Zogorski, his cousin Stanley and John Marker of Dolington, were the first Newtown residents drafted into World War II, receiving the call on April 1, 1941. Tom was sent to Ft. Meade, Md., where he would go through basic training and field artillery training, but it wasn’t until his graduation in May of 1943 that Zogorski would truly find his role in the war effort.

Zogorski says he had never piloted an aircraft and had only been a passenger in a few light airplanes when the Army Air Corps selected him for bombardier training, but after six months of target practice, it was clear the Newtown native was among the best in his class.

Flying at anywhere from 4,000 to 13,000 feet in a Beechcraft AT-11, Zogorski came within about 90 feet of his targets, compiling a “circular air” average of over 30 feet better than the class average. Not bad, especially considering a Beechcraft can reach a maximum speed of 225 m.p.h.

“It takes practice to become proficient. It’s very sensitive adjustments that you have to make,” Zogorski said of the knobs used to align the plane and synchronize speeds for an accurate drop. “What you’re doing is making your plane fly on a course that will take you over your target.”

As a student, Tom was training partners with Walter Yerkes Jr., a 17-year-old from Southampton, who Zogorski didn’t know before training. He soon discovered they lived minutes apart their entire lives.

“It was nice to know somebody from the same area,” Zogorski remembered.

As a flight commander training America’s elite for combat, Tom looked back on a man from his training, Charles Eikner, whom he called “a top-notch instructor.” Zogorski said he still stays in contact with Eikner, who lives in Texas, and was happy to teach his students everything Eikner had taught him.

“He just had a knack for teaching,” he said. “I certainly passed on everything he told me that I thought was worth passing along.”

Zogorski says dropping the 5-foot-long bombs filled with sand and black powder was “like a job” for most of his students, but added that it wasn’t a job everyone in the Air Corps could handle.

“A lot of them just couldn’t do it,” Zogorski said. “You just had to tell them, ‘You’re at the end, we just can’t have you anymore.’” He says those soldiers would be reassigned to ground duties like maintaining the base and its planes.

The role of flight commander meant Zogorski was responsible for approving bombardier students before their graduation, and he says the most important thing he looked for was a soldier who could maintain a level head, executing procedure without getting too nervous. And sometimes those decisions weren’t cut and dry.

“I had one student, a real good student, but every time he went up in the air he would get airsick,” Zogorski recalled. “He had a big sheep jacket on and he would puke inside his jacket … You can’t hide that.”

Zogorski says he knew the student was an excellent bombardier, so provisions had to be made to ensure his graduation. “I told him, ‘Take a bag with you, puke in the bag and throw it out the window and everything will be fine.’ He did that every damn time and I passed him.”

Mishaps in training didn’t always have a slapstick ending, however. Zogorski was somber as he remembered four men who died when their plane clipped another during training exercises, and while he did not oversee those students, the bond of brotherhood was clear in his voice.

But through it all, Zogorski says he was always comfortable in the bombardier’s front row seat, a glass enclosure that looks directly out the nose of the plane. “You had a good bird’s eye view; you were the first one there,” he joked, adding, “It was just a routine thing: You got in the airplane and you took off.”

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Danny Quill

Pfc. Danny Quill (top) was with the 91st Division. James Wilkinson, division
command sergeant major of the 91st Division, pins Quill with the insignia
of the 362nd Infantry Unit, the unit Quill fought in during World War II.
(Photo by Jeff Werner)

Longtime Yardley resident who now makes his home in
Morrisville took part in one of World War II’s largest, bloodiest
and most bitter battles — the fight over Monte Cassino in Italy.

By Petra Chesner Schlatter Staff Editor

U.S. Army Pfc. Danny Quill, a longtime Yardley resident who now makes his home in Morrisville, has the distinction of being the recipient of three bronze stars and has been described as a "valiant soldier" with the 91st Division.

Quill participated in one of World War II’s largest, bloodiest and most bitter battles – the fight over Monte Cassino in Italy.

Quill celebrated his 93rd birthday on Feb.10. For his 91st birthday in 2006, the Yardley community rolled out the red carpet for a celebration with 150 friends and relatives.

“They had a big party at the Elks (Lodge 2023 in Morrisville),” Quill said. “Three came from my old outfit and celebrated my birthday with me.”

Those three special military guests, representing the 91st Division, flew in from the west coast especially for the occasion. They presented Quill with gifts of appreciation for his service to the nation and to the division.

“I cannot tell you how honored I am to be here tonight,” said Division Command Sgt. Maj. James Wilkinson, who had delivered greetings in 2006 from the major general of the 91st. “We wanted you to know that the 91st never forgets a veteran of our rank.”

Wilkinson had attended the event with Catherine Pauley, public affairs operations NCO, and Maj. Kerrie Hurd, public affairs operations officer.

“You are a member of what today is called the Greatest Generation, but I want you to know that another great generation still serves the American people in the 91st,” Wilkinson had continued.
Wilkinson had said that the 91st had been mobilized for the “Global War on Terrorism since January 2003” and that soldiers had been deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait. The 91st is the oldest division of the U.S. Army.

Members of the 91st Division during World War II earned 33 Distinguished Service Crosses and 564 Silver Stars for heroism. One of the Medal of Honor recipients served in Quill’s regiment, the 362nd Infantry.

“You are linked to all the history of our great division and we want you to know how proud we are of your service and the legacy that you and your brothers in arms left for those of us who still serve proudly in the 91st,” Wilkinson aid. “You have a place in our history, but more importantly you have a place in our hearts.”

In a gesture of respect and thanks for Quill’s service Wilkinson had presented Quill with a letter from Maj. Gen. Bruce E. Zukaukas, the commanding general of the 91st Division, expressing a debt of gratitude for Quill’s selfless service.

The 2006 birthday celebration was a surprise. “Who the hell ever expected something like that?” Quill had said about the three representatives from the 91st who flew across the country to celebrate with him.

“See what he gave me?” Quill said, proudly holding up a military decoration given to him by Wilkinson. “Just before he left, he took it off his tie and gave it to me.

“I don’t know whether I deserved all that or not,” said Quill.

Two years later, Quill talked in an interview about missing his fellow soldiers upon his return home from World War II. “We all left and I didn’t see any others. There wasn’t anyone around here that served with me. I joined the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) the American Legion.
“I guess I’m the oldest. My buddies treat me great. I can’t find anybody like ‘em.”

Quill is well-known and well-loved in Yardley as the outgoing singer of traditional Irish music. He said on Feb. 15, he would be heading to the Legion for a party at 8 p.m. “I will probably sing, ‘Danny Boy.’ I am going to raise Cain!”

On Memorial Day in Yardley, Quill rides in the parade on Yardley Borough’s South Main Street. “I love the parade. Everybody knows me. I worked in Pennsbury schools. All of them (students) are grown up now and they have children. When I come through the Yardley parade, they’re yelling, ‘Danny Boy!! Danny Boy!!” Before working for the school district as a custodian for 11 years, Quill was a rose grower for 40 years with Heacock Florist in Yardley.

On the more solemn Veteran’s Day, Quill said he thinks of “what happened during the war, why I was in the war, and coming home, and how everybody treated us. God Bless the ones that didn’t come home.

“I wish they were here with me to have the good time, but they can’t be here…I have a good time on Veteran’s Day. I go over to the Vets’ (building). They have a party. They have all the veterans down from the manor. I sing ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral (The Irish Lullaby)’.

“My wife (Ann Burke Quill) and I used to go to the Vets’ when she was living. She’d play the piano and I would sing on meeting nights and for little parties. She was Irish -- a beautiful lady. I miss her.”

At the end of the war, Quill was anxious to get home. His future wife was waiting for him. They were married in 1946.

Today, the former rose grower prides himself on being a top seller of red poppies around Memorial Day. He and his fellow veterans set up a table each year in McCaffrey’s Supermarket in Yardley. “Last year, I sold over 5,000.”

When asked why he devotes so much of his time selling poppies, Quill said, “I think of those boys and I like to do it. I’m doing it for a good cause. I like to raise money for disabled vets. I’ve seen a lot of them wounded.”

Each year around Memorial Day, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) members and American Legion Auxiliary volunteers distribute millions of bright red poppies in exchange for contributions to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans.

At age 93, Quill still keeps busy raising funds for the community and putting smiles on people’s faces when he greets them.

For Yardley’s Garden of Reflection, the memorial built in remembrance of those who perished in 9-11, Quill sold chances and collected donations for the cause. He raised “thousands and thousands of dollars.” Quill has also raised money for cancer research.

One of Quill’s favorite pastimes is visiting McCaffrey’s Supermarket — just to see friends and to be around people. When he walks through the store, the employees greet him by name. The store is located down the street from his former residence.

Jim Murphy of Levittown often drives Quill to the store. “He’s the best friend I have. I have no license or cars. He takes me all over.”

What does freedom mean to Quill? “To be happy go-lucky, love everybody and have a good time — and good health. That’s freedom to me.”

Having served in World War II, Quill has been outspoken about the Iraq War. “I think it’s a shame. I just wish they’d settle it and come home.”

What advice would he give to people serving in Iraq and Afghanistan? “Be careful. Good luck and God bless them.”

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