Today, we honor our veterans who have courageously served in the armed forces. As a tribute to their service, below are tales of service from UPMC Senior Communities residents who are veterans. We salute our seniors who have served and all of our veterans who have fought for our freedom!
- George Black, Sugar Creek Station: George Black remembers one harrowing experience: A gunshot went through one side of his B-25 Bomber and continued out the other. George had just bent over to do something when the shot passed through the aircraft! The pilot was also narrowly missed by the gunfire. At just 19-years-old, George was drafted into the Air Force and served as a gunner during World War II. George Black comes from a military family. He and his father both served and one of his sons is a retired Air Force Major. George is very proud of his service to our country.
- Curtis Cornell, Seneca Hills Village: On New Year’s Day in 1945, Curtis Cornell arrived at the Battle of the Bulge. His squadron was given white sheets and instructed to lie in the snow and blend in until they thought it was safe They were pulled back to regroup before being told that it was safe to move on. Unexpectedly, his squad was hit by artillery, mortars, and machine guns. One of his best friends was one of the many casualties. Curtis and his squadron were ordered to sleep standing up because they couldn’t lie down on the frozen ground. Because of these extreme conditions, Curtis was taken to a hospital in France where he was diagnosed with Trench Foot. He was then transferred to an English hospital where he spent three months. The war ended while he was hospitalized. Curtis received the Purple Heart. He still suffers the effects of this condition.
- Jim Cunningham, Beatty Point Village: “I’m just a kid from Homewood, what am I doing here?” That’s what Jim Cunningham recalls thinking when he was flying a 5,000 horsepower four-engine bomber, the B-24 Liberator, when he was just 21 years old. “Well, my country was planning something big in the next few months and they needed all the manpower they could get – even 21-year-olds from Homewood.” On June 5, 1944, Jim’s target was a crossroads near the town of Caen, France that was directly on the path of forces landing on the Normandy beach. Unfortunately, a solid cloud cover prevented Jim and his crew from seeing the target thus preventing them from releasing the bombs they carried as there was the danger of hitting the invasion forces. “I’m sorry to say that our efforts to aid the invasion were not successful that day, but we made up for it on succeeding days and we did our small part in ridding the world of that monster, Hitler” says Jim.
- Teresa Goldner, Sherwood Oaks: Retired Colonel, Teresa Goldner, was a registered nurse and physical therapist in the 1940s. During this time, she worked at St. John’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital, and D.T. Watson. She is honored to have worked with Dr. Jonas Salk and to treat children with polio. Teresa joined the U.S. Army Nurse Corp in 1945 and served in Hawaii, Japan, and Okinawa until the end of World War II. She joined the Occupation Forces in Japan and was awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon and the Victory Medal. Teresa joined the Air Force as a Captain in 1950 and served until 1987. Teresa served as Associate Chief of Biomedical Science Corp and Consultant to the Air Force General in matters pertaining to physical therapy. Teresa also received the Merits Service Award and Accommodation Medal. She retired from the military as a Full Colonel and remains a lifetime member of the American Physical Therapy Association.
- Eugene Heckmann, Cumberland Crossing Manor: “It took three days and there were bombs and bullets all-day, every-day.” Eugene Heckman, dressed as a French farmer, went behind enemy lines to deliver explosives so that our troops could take out the artillery that the Germans had put up after taking over France. Eugene was a Platoon Sergeant in the Army and speaks English, French, and German. Eugene received the Cross of War Medal from France. This medal is bestowed upon soldiers who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism in combat with the enemy.
- Ann Stromick, Cranberry Place: In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt administered the oath of allegiance to Ann and her fellow classmates in the U.S. Army Cadet Nursing Program. A special communication link was established between Washington, D.C. and the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of learning so that the nurses could be inducted. Ann served at Fort Dix, N.J. until 1947. She is very proud of the fact that she was able to serve our country during wartime. Both her daughter and son-in-law were career officers in the U.S. Air Force and two of her grandsons are presently serving, one in the Air Force and the other in the Army Rangers.