New Program Brings Purple Heart Veterans Back To School - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

09/29/04

New Program Brings Purple Heart Veterans Back To School

Leahmon McElveen said "Several ships were sunk and we got into the Mediterranean. The Germans flew over and bombed some more ships".

What better way to hear about the grim realities of war than from someone who has lived it.

McElveen said "We had long range bombers that were getting there and dropping bombs into the Japanese homeland, but so many of them didn't make it back".

On Wednesday, McElveen took the History students at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College back to his days as a young marine, to one of the most deadly invasions of World War Two. That morning, in 1945, McElveen woke up to eat breakfast and knew something was about to happen.

McElveen said "We knew what our usual breakfast was. It was those beans. But that morning, we had steak and eggs. As soon as we saw it, we knew we were in for something you know. They weren't just that good to marines".

Just moments after landing on the beaches of Iwo Jima, McElveen felt the shots of machine gun fire. The bullets blew away his rifle and first aid pack.

McElveen said "The first thing I said was "My God My God help me. I was not an overly religious boy, but I want to tell you something, you didn't have any atheists on Iwo Jima".

His hand was burned, but he fought on. Things changed on March 6th. McElveen said "I didn't get shot in the front. I got shot from the side. The bullet went through my calf".

Doctors had to amputate his left leg. McElveen hopes his stories of sacrifice will serve as an inspiration for college students.

McElveen said "The only thing I can hope is they get the same spirit of Americanism and hope and love of country, and love of the flag that we did. If we can impart and I do believe from the audience here, I think they got it".

World War II veterans George Chaplain and Leonard Nederveld also shared their experiences. After hearing those war stories, History Sophomore David Washington said "I have a lot of family who are also war veterans who I've heard a lot from. It's kind of eye opening to hear what those people have been through out there".

By: Trang Pham-Bui

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