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Two Wars, Two Veterans Determined To Serve

Vern Synder tried to enlist three times in the Marines, and Judi Chapman joined the military after her childhood sweetheart was killed in Vietnam.

Memories of history, courage, and loss all come to mind on Veterans Day. But even in times of war, not all soldiers serve in combat, many service members have support positions.  Here is a look into the lives of local veterans, dating back to World War II about what it was like working behind the scenes in the military.

Vern Synder, World War II

Vern Synder

Photo: Claudia Lozano/WFIU News

Vern Snyder is a WWII veteran and says he likes it when people thank him for his service.

During World War II,  21-year-old Vern Snyder tried to enlist three times in the Marines.

I don’t claim to be any hero…I did what I was supposed to do.

“I guess I was super patriotic,” he says. “I tried to enlist in the marines to start with. The marine doctor told me that I was just wasting my time, that I had a heart defect of some sort, and that I would never make it. So I decided to give that part up.”

But Snyder was determined to serve the country any way he could. He was eventually accepted in the army. He went to Missouri for basic training and then on to Europe where his job was to repair and take care of anything the army needed to communicate.

“That means radios, telephones, radio direction finding, all that,” Synder says. “We fixed anything. Our job was to maintain the equipment and all the troops and scouts and artillery and all that could carry out their communication with each other. It was a vital part of the war, but we didn’t have to engage in any combat.”

Snyder says although it has been 65 years, he can still fit in his army uniform, which he recently donated and can now see displayed at the Monroe County Historical Society. Snyder says he likes having Veterans Day because he feels really honored when people thank him for his service.

“There are heroes of war and stuff like that, and I don’t claim to be any hero. I was 1942 to 1946 in there. I enlisted in the army, but I did what I was supposed to do,” he says. “I did what they wanted me to do, when they wanted me to do it, and where they wanted me to do it, and for that I got an honorable discharge, and I’m proud of that.”

Judi Chapman, Vietnam

Judi Chapman

Photo: Claudia Lozano/WFIU News

Judi Chapman was 19 years old when she enlisted in the Marine Corps during Vietnam.

During Vietnam not everyone was proud of the veterans. In 1968 Judi Chapman was only 19-years-old when she decided to enlist in the Marine Corps. Although she says her parents were furious, she was determined to join saying she wanted to learn more about life in the Marines.

I was in love with my childhood sweetheart…he was killed in action, and it killed me. So I did a stupid thing. I joined the Marine Corps.

“I was in loved with my childhood sweetheart, Anthony Albert Alencastre, my true love,” she says. “He went in the Marine Corps, and I started working, preparing for college. He’d been over there about nine months and he was killed in action, and it killed me. So I did a stupid thing. I joined the Marine Corps. My father said he would allow it if I’d go in the navy, ‘cause the navy was much easier, and I said ‘no, I’m going to the Marine Corps,’ and he said, ‘why?’ and I said, ‘‘cause it’s the hardest, and if I can do that, I can do anything.”

Chapman says on the day she enlisted she was told she would not be sent to Vietnam. In the sixties the Marine Corps did not allow women to work outside the United States. Chapman was stationed in the supply and purchasing department.

“I just wanted to know that the Marine Corps was about, I lost a loved one and I wanted to know what he was fighting for. I had to do it that way. Look at how emotional I get, and it’s been what, 40 years?”

Chapman says she wishes people would have given the recognition and honor to Vietnam veterans back then.

“There were people coming home from Vietnam that were spit on, they had things thrown at, garbage thrown at them, and now all of a sudden they are heroes,” she says. “People recognize them as being in a real war. That was a real war, there were people that died, that believed in their country and they gave their lives for people over here.”

And Chapman says now, she sees the same happening to Iraq veterans.

“Some of the kids are talking, ‘why those stupid idiots go there,’ you know, and you think, ‘how sad,’ you know, a person willing to give up their lives to their country and their country treats them like [expletive], that is so sad. Maybe someday it will be different, I don’t know.”

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