Veterans of Bucks County

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, 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, 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, February 7, 2008

William Joseph Severns

Vietnam veteran Bill Severns.

Severns poses with his N Division crewmates aboard the USS
Joseph Strauss. Severn served on the Strauss from 1968-1970.

Lifetime Bucks County resident’s ship was almost sunk on two separate occasions during the
Vietnam War — once from rocket fire near the Mekong Delta and once from “friendly fire.”

By Bob Staranowicz Correspondent

The Vietnam War was the longest military conflict in the history of the United States. U.S. involvement began in 1965 when troops were sent by President Johnson to prevent the South Vietnamese government from collapsing. Ultimately, the goal was never realized. In 1975, Vietnam was reunified under Communist control and in 1976 it officially became the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. In 1985, President Nixon said, “No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now.”
Many Bucks County men and women served in Vietnam and one of them is William Joseph Severns.

Born on March 18, 1946, Bill lived in Willow Grove until 1957 when his family moved to Bensalem. After graduating from Bensalem High School in June of 1964, he joined the Navy one month later and was off to basic training in Great Lakes, Ill. Little did he know that one month after his enlistment, the infamous Gulf of Tonkin incident would occur. On Aug. 2, 1964, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked a U.S. destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin. Two days later, the U.S. Navy reported to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that another American destroyer was under attack by the North Vietnamese. In 2005, it was revealed in an official NSA declassified report that the Maddox first fired warning shots in the Aug. 2 incident and that there may have been no North Vietnamese boats at all in the Aug. 4 incident.

Bill enlisted in the Navy because of his interest in nuclear submarines. He attended Basic Enlisted Submarine School, Basic Nuclear Power School and Nuclear Power Prototype Training. After training, Bill was off to Vietnam on four separate six-month tours. He was assigned to the destroyers USS Radford from 1966-1968 and the USS Joseph Strauss from 1968-1970. The mission of the 7th fleet included gunfire support, search and rescue, carrier escort, escort to the USS New Jersey and PBR (Patrol Boat River) / SEAL insertion and extraction support. All of these duties were in support of the mission in Vietnam.

Bill was fortunate in that he only had to set foot on Vietnam soil for supply missions in DaNang and Saigon. His main duties were on-board his assigned ships, one of his more interesting being his responsibility for the desalination plants. These are the systems that converted sea water into feed water for the ship’s boilers and drinkable water for the crew.
I asked Bill what he missed the most while away from home, I received the answer that I get a majority of the time: he missed his family and friends. He also missed social life and his 1965 Pontiac GTO.

There are many enjoyable and many unpleasant experiences that one lives through while being away from home. Bill enjoyed the sea experience, travel to different ports and escorting the USS New Jersey. Some of his favorite ports of call were Australia, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The unpleasant duties of his service included the monotonous routines, the sometimes unbearable heat, the unpleasant smells and standing watch. His worst duties also included gunfire support off North and South Vietnam.

Even though Bill didn’t serve in-country, he did have several close calls. His ship was nearly sunk on two separate occasions. One incident involved hostile rocket fire off the coast of Vietnam near the Mekong Delta. The other was from “friendly fire” when a US plane dropped four bombs while evacuating a North Vietnamese coastal mission. The latter incident was the basis for a three month dry-dock situation so that shrapnel could be removed from radar and other above-deck equipment.

Some of the more rewarding experiences that Bill shared with me include surviving storms at sea, crossing the equator and just watching the many flying fish and porpoises that always followed the fleet.

When Bill returned to California from Vietnam, he experienced protests similar to those witnessed by many other returning Vets. He saw the “Baby Killer” signs and dealt with the verbal harassment. When he returned to college, he soon noticed that Vets gathered with other Vets and avoided normal fraternities and mainstream clubs.

After his active service, Bill received an AA from Bucks County Community College and then earned a BS in Elementary Education from Trenton State College — now the College of New Jersey.

Some of the awards and medals Bill received include the Navy-Marine Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Navy Reserve Meritorious Service, National Defense, Vietnam Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism, Navy Marine Overseas Medal, Navy Sea Service, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with Silver Hour Glass, and the Republic of Vietnam Service Medal.

Sixteen years after Bill was discharged from the Navy, he decided to enlist in the Navy Reserve initially as a part-time job. He has recently retired from the reserves as a senior chief petty officer after 26 years of total combined service. He is also retired form the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. He works part time as a driver for the Office of Military Affairs of Bucks County taking veterans to and from Philadelphia and Coatesville medical facilities.

Bill is also involved with many veterans organizations, including Vietnam Veterans of America Post 210 where he serves on the Education Committee, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 175, the American Legion Post 148, the Navy League, Chief Petty Officer Association and the Tin Can Sailors Association. He is also the director of the NERA (Navy Enlisted Reserve Association).
Bill’s father, who passed in 2006, was a World War II veteran. His dad saw combat in Anzio, Salerno, North Africa and Monte Cassino while serving with the 5th Army.

Bill lives in Doylestown and has been a lifetime Bucks County resident. He is married to his wife of 30 years, Susan Hesch, a courageous breast cancer survivor. They have a son, Zachary, who is a graduate of Central Bucks High School West. Zachary spent 15 years with Tiger Schulmann’s Karate program and has earned a third degree black belt.

Bill should be very proud of his 26 years of service to his country and Bucks County should be grateful for his service and the service of all Veterans.

Bill is a driver for the Bucks County Veterans Van. If you would like to help in keeping the Veterans Van up and running, your donation is tax deductible and will go only to the operation of this vehicle as there is no administration cost.

For information, call 215-345-3885. If you wish to make a contribution, please make your check payable to: County of Bucks Veterans Transportation. Mail To: Department of Veterans Affairs, Neshaminy Manor Center, Bldg. K, Doylestown, Pa. 18901.

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