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Party at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital Honors World War II Vets Headed to Washington, D.C.|
ARLINGTON, Texas — At 91 years old, Curtis Clegg doesn’t think twice about driving himself to Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. A former cardiac patient, he now exercises in the hospital’s fitness center. After serving in the Army during World War II, Clegg is among a diminishing breed of war heroes. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 740 WWII veterans pass away each day.
Texas Health Arlington Memorial will soon honor Clegg and two other servicemen who are all part of the hospital community. Hospital employees will host a send-off party for three WWII veterans From noon to 1 p.m. on May 10 at Texas Health Fitness Center Arlington, before they head to Washington, D.C., compliments of Honor Flight DFW. A nonprofit organization created to honor North Texas veterans, Honor Flight DFW takes WWII veterans on an expense-paid trip to the nation’s capital to tour various war memorials.
Beth Arseneau, R.N.-BC, B.S.N., who works in Texas Health Arlington Memorial’s cardiac rehab department, and four physicians on the hospital’s medical staff will serve on the medical team during the two-day trip to D.C. The participating physicians are family practitioner Kim Gentry, M.D., internist Jeffrey Greco, M.D., and sleep medicine physician David Plump, M.D.
“For all they’ve done for our country, these men deserve this and so much more,” said Arseneau, who knows all three veterans personally. “I feel extremely blessed to be able to accompany these men on this memorable trip and I’ll make sure they don’t lift a finger. As a part of the medical team, we will cater to all of their health needs and make sure they are comfortable during the entire trip.”
Clegg is excited about what he’ll see in D.C., yet somber as well.
“I’m looking forward to the trip, but I want to pay my respects to an old buddy of mine — he died bringing ammunition to me at the mortar site when we were fighting in Normandy,” Clegg said.
“When I found out I was selected to go on the trip, I was excited,” said 84-year-old WWII veteran David Miller. “I’ve pretty much seen all the war memorials in D.C. except the World War II memorial.”
Like Clegg, Miller also works out at the hospital’s fitness center. Clegg served in the Army, while Miller joined the Coast Guard when he was 17.
“I was in the North Atlantic during the end of the war. But I was what they called a radio man, and I used Morse code to communicate with the military government back in Washington, D.C.”
Ninety-two-year-old veteran James Hodges joined the Texas National Guard at the age of 16, during the Great Depression.
“In 1940, the National Guard federalized,” Hodges said. “We were called into service, and I joined the 36th Infantry Division. Years ago I was stationed at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, so I’m looking forward to seeing the WWII monument and the other memorials.
“I’m sure a lot has changed since 1943. This trip is really going to be something.”
All three men have vivid memories of their experiences. June 6, 1944, better known as D-Day, is forever etched in Clegg’s memory.
“During the Battle of Normandy, I was a part of the Army Chemical Warfare Services Mortar Battalion. My friend was my ammunition handler, and I was a gunner. His death happened so quickly; I remember an explosion going off near us – I looked down and he was gone,” said Clegg.
Hodges, who was an engineer during WWII, remembered an 1944 incident while he was aboard the USS General A.E. Anderson troop transport ship.
“We were about 400 miles from the Australian shore and the ship took a sharp turn, knocking some of us to the floor,” Hodges said. “After I did some investigating, I found out that a Japanese torpedo had been fired at us, but thankfully it had missed. We had been listening to a Navy battle on the radio, but we just didn’t realize how close we were to the action.”
During the end of WWII, Miller’s tour of duty centralized around the North Atlantic.
“I was mainly near Iceland, but we monitored the weather and any activity of German submarines that had not gotten word that the war was over,” he said.
Through personal health issues or family health concerns, all three men ended up at Texas Health Arlington Memorial, where they often interact with Arseneau. Clegg was a heart patient in 1998. In 2004, Miller’s wife underwent heart surgery and received her cardiac rehab at Texas Health Arlington Memorial. Also in 2004, Hodges underwent triple-bypass surgery. Now, the veterans use the hospital’s fitness center to stay in shape.
“These men are truly amazing — and I never get tired of hearing about their military experience and what they’ve done since then,” Arseneau said. “They are true heroes.”
But Clegg, Hodges and Miller disagreed. Instead, each veteran said patriotism prompted their military service.
“I define heroism as someone who lays down his or her life for someone else,” Hodges said. “I know of many soldiers that did that, but sadly they’re not here to talk about what they did to protect others.”
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