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Veterans to be honored at Sunday ceremony

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By Calen McKinney

They're the three years of his life he says he wishes he could forget.

"Everybody knows war is hell, don't they?" the 87-year-old said. "That's how I'd describe it."

Campbellsville resident W.I. Rucker is a veteran of World War II. He served in the U.S. Army as a technical sergeant for nearly three years.

Rucker, originally from Burdick, was drafted in April 1943.

When he was drafted, he said, he just thought he would go like everyone else.

"It's time to go," he said. "That's just the way I felt about it."

Rucker was stationed in Australia, New Guinea, Japan and several islands of the Philippines. His job was to drive military trucks and haul tanks and gasoline. He also helped build airport runways.

"We were there to keep the peace," he said.

Rucker said he participated in combat but wasn't wounded. The worst thing that happened to him while serving was getting malaria.

"I got down to 136 pounds," he said.

Rucker said he witnessed a number of military raids. He was in Karigador, Croatiawhen the military released an atomic bomb.

Rucker said he remembers seeing soldiers come from the combat area with half of their helmets blown off by ammunition.

"[No] rational person would want to do that," he said.

He said he sometimes had to drive trucks through combat zones.

"We still had to perform," he said. "No, it [wasn't] good. Not at all.

"[Sometimes you would] think the next one might be yours."

Rucker said he remembers not seeing any women in Japan for several weeks because they had been told Americans would mistreat them.

During one particular air raid he watched, Rucker said, more than 300 people were killed. He said the army's newspaper reported that there were few casualties.

"They didn't want the Japanese to know how many had been killed," he said.

Rucker said he saw several soldiers be buried and that was particularly difficult.

"I've seen them buried at sea," he said. "That's somebody's son."

Rucker said one of his brothers was drafted along with him, but he was discharged shortly after he joined.

"He couldn't make it," he said. "I was the only one."

Rucker says he really didn't know anyone else serving when he was drafted. He made several friends overseas, though, and said some have since come to see him in Campbellsville.

Rucker was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in December 1945. Coming home after the war, he said, was great but also difficult.

Shortly after coming home, Rucker separated from his first wife and began drinking too much.

"They told us, the ones who were able to walk, the best thing to do was get you a job and go to work," he said.

But he said he had some trouble adjusting to civilian life again, and that's why he drank.

"When [I would hear] thunder, I'd hit the ground," he said. "It was embarrassing.

"One day me and Christ got to talking," he said. "[Then] I tried to get rid of all that stuff."

Rucker spent some time living in Louisville, and then came back home to Campbellsville.

He later re-married and has two children, six grandchildren and seven great-great grandchildren. So far, he said, they haven't shown any interest in serving in the military.

"They escaped that," he said.

Though he says it's sometimes hard, Rucker said he will discuss his military experience with his children if they ask.

"I'd rather be doing something else."

Actually, Rucker said, he would like to forget about his time in the Army.

"I wasn't against the war," he said. "It's just not pleasant to think about.

"It can come back to bite you."

According to Rucker's Army discharge papers, he was awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Theater medal with three bronze stars, the Philippine Liberation medal with two bronze stars, the Good Conduct medal and the Victory medal.

Rucker is a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans and says he always attends the annual Veterans Day celebration.

He said he supports all veterans, but his true heroes are the ones who lost their lives during war.

"My heroes are the boys who didn't come home."

The annual Veterans Day ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Taylor County War Memorial.

Speakers include Campbellsville Mayor Brenda Allen, Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers, Vietnam veteran Bill Perkins and State Rep. Russ Mobley.

Patty Waters will provide special music.

Members of the American Legion will place flowers on the monument to honor Taylor County soldiers who have lost their lives.

Members of the community are encouraged to attend.

- Staff Writer Calen McKinney can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 235 or by e-mail at reporter@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.