Veterans recount their wartime experiences

By Jacqueline G. Goodwin, ED.D.
Photos By Danielle Debley

Recently, Harrisburg Magazine sat down with four local veterans, acknowledging their sacrifices and giving them the opportunity to share their wartime experiences and what civilian life was like after their tours of duty ended. Here are their stories in their own words.

Armond V. Acri


What is your full name?
Armond V. Acri.

How old are you?
91 years.

What were you doing before you joined the military?
I was attending John Harris High School. I was a messenger boy for the Air Raid Wardens.

Do you remember the day Pearl Harbor was attacked?
Yes. My family and I were on the way home after attending Mass. When we got to the house we sat around the radio and listened to the news reports.

Did you enlist or were you drafted?
I enlisted. I quit school at age 17 to join the Navy. I enlisted on Feb. 13, 1945.

Did any friends enlist with you?
Yes. My high school friend Ronnie Leo went with me to enlist.

What did you envision it would be like after you joined?
I don’t know. But I did know that so many of us kids wanted to help our country. It was a great feeling. What do you remember about your first days in the military? I was sent to Fort Sampson in New York for boot camp. I had two physicals. I passed the first but because of an accident while playing baseball and complications that resulted, I was held over to be examined again. Eventually I was assigned to a repair ship in New York City, the AG 74. During my time in the Navy I also became a gunnery. Shooting rifles further hurt my shoulder injured while playing baseball and has affected me ever since.

Where did you go during the war?
In July 1945 we left port from New York City. But the war was over by then. Enroute to the Panama Canal I took a written exam and became a Seaman First Class. The ship made an emergency stop in San Diego and eventually we landed in Okanawa. I wanted to find my brother who was also in the Navy but I didn’t get to see him because he was in China. A lot of us caught dysentery and we had to take pills and drink lots of water.

When were you discharged?
July 1946.

What did you do after you came home?
I attended John Harris High School once again and graduated. Took the vocational technical engineering curriculum. Also took courses in auto mechanics. I then studied radio code at a school in Kansas City. Came back home and worked on the railroad as a brakeman. Made $1.68 a hour. It was a dangerous job. Did that for a few months. Also worked for the City of Harrisburg as I attended Temple University. I studied Radio and T.V. I joined the 28th Infantry of the National Guard.

Did you serve in the Korean War?
Yes. I left school at Temple University to serve. I was sent to Camp Atterbury. Had shoulder problems and trouble with my tonsils. I was discharged in 1951.

What did you do after you were discharged?
I went back to Temple University. I had a scholarship from State Senator Harvey Taylor to attend. I graduated in 1954 and went to Japan for 19 months where I trained Japanese pilots to fly the F-86D , using a flight simulator. I was sent to Italy to work with the Italian Air Force. I then worked in Lousiville, Kentucky and eventually Puerto Rico. I also worked in Portugal and Maryland.

Are you married?
Yes. I married Mary Cavrich on July 21, 1956. We have five children.

Do you belong to any veterans’ organizations or associations?
Yes. I belonged to American Legion Post 27 when I was in Maryland. I was Jr. Vice Commander. When I returned to Harrisburg I belonged to American Legion Post 27, and for the past 27 years have belonged to American Legion Post 272 in Linglestown.

John Bowers

What is your full name?
John Bowers.

How old are you?
88 years.

What were you doing before you served in the military? I worked for C.D. Benders, and I also attended Susquehanna High School. I was in the Naval Reserves in high school for four years. I was very athletic and was captain of the football and basketball teams. Received a full scholarship to the University of North Carolina but never went. Instead, I got married.

Who did you marry?
I married Sylvia Radcliffe on March 18, 1950. Both she and I came from very poor families and decided to hold off from having kids for at least five years to get established and save money. However, that helped seal my fate since the government decided to include those who were married but didn’t have kids in the draft. I received my letter to report and did just that. I was sent to Ft. Meade in Maryland for two weeks and then on to Camp Gordon in Augusta, Georgia for basic training. I received my orders to report to Camp Stoneman in California and two weeks later I found myself onboard a ship with 3,500 other soldiers headed for Korea.

What were you doing during the war?
After I arrived in Korea I was assigned a post and became a member of the Signal Corps for the 40th Infantry Division. They gave us warm clothes and boots because temperatures were extremely cold. Sometimes the temperature could be 40 degrees below zero. We called the boots, “Mickey Mouse” boots because they were so big and bulky. It was hard to walk in them because they were so big. I remember walking to see a movie starring Debbie Reynolds and Walter Pigeon in those boots. It was hard going. We had no hot meals. Just C-rations in those square boxes with different meals. Almost immediately, I was on the line, dodging mortars which were especially common during lunch time. One time a mortar came so close to me that it pulled the hair straight up from my head. After that I stayed in the pit for three hours after until I was sure that there were no more mortars coming my way. I was on the line for three months. One of my friends from Harrisburg, Roger Swalm was killed while on the line. I was in Korea for 21 months. And I was on the line for six months out of the total time I spent there. The Army sent me to Japan for R and R and then I came back. During my last four months in Korea, one of the officers, Colonel Brown, who was from Reading, liked me and got me off the line.

What was your final assignment?
After I got off the line, I was cleared for deciphering code. I did this for four months. I actually knew the war was ending beforehand due to the messages I deciphered for the higher ups. The war ended on July 27, 1953 which was my birthday. I have to say it was the best birthday present I ever received. I then was in the Army Reserves for six years. I left the service as a Sergeant.

What did you do after returning to civilian life?
I opened John Bowers Carpet and Design in the basement of my house at 2912 Paxton Street. I eventually moved the business to 8000 Derry Street. My son John now runs the business. I also have a daughter, Becky, who I now reside with since my house recently burned. My wife died two years ago.

Do you belong to any veterans’ organizations or associations?
Yes. I have been a member of the American Legion for 59 years. I’d like to say that the VA is so good to me. It provides me with all my medicines, glasses, hearing aids, and batteries for free. I’d like to add that I don’t consider myself a war hero. I was just doing a job for my country which I love.

Marshall E. Eward

What is your full name?
Marshall E. Eward.

What were you doing before you joined the military?
I attended North Mexico Institute of Mining Technology and Penn State but didn’t care for college so I quit. I then became a lab analyst for a company who worked with polyester located in Lewistown.

Did you enlist or where you drafted?
I figured I was going to be drafted so I enlisted in January, 1967. I was sent from Lewistown to Ft. Dix, New Jersey for basic training. I was selected for OCS and went to Ft. Benning, Georgia. Became commissioned as a Lieutenant and was sent to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. I was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. We flew over to Vietnam and I was sent to Camp Evans. I was assigned to the 187th and became a platoon leader. My platoon was in the mountains and it was hot and humid. Everything came in and left by helicopter including the wounded. When we found streams we’d fill our canteens and take baths. We were in the jungle. It was slow moving. We’d make trails and be on the lookout for booby traps. During the 13 months I was in Vietnam, I experienced combat at the Battle of Hamburger Hill. It occurred in May 1969 and lasted for 11 days. We lost seventy-five percent of our battalion due to casualties. We ran out of company commanders. Out of 24 leaders there were only five left. During the 11 days, I was wounded twice. I suffered two rounds in the side. The medic pulled out the shrapnel with tweezers. I was also hit with a mortar to my shoulder. I didn’t leave the field either time I was wounded. At the end of my tour I volunteered to stay. I trained a Vietnamese unit and after that I was sent to the States for Special Forces School. I trained as a Green Beret. When I did return to the States, I was treated very badly, as many of the Vietnam vets were at the time. I was spit on twice. I was sent back to Asia for 30 months and finished my tour as a Captain. I retired at age 55 in 2002. However, I was recalled at age 57 and went to Ft. Benning, Georgia and then on to the Pentagon. I did a tour as a crisis counselor and retired again for a second time in 2006 as a full Colonel.

Who did you marry?
I married Patricia Jane Secreast on March 28, 1970. We are still married. We don’t have any children.


Leroy T. Lippy Jr.

What is your full name?
Leroy T. Lippy Jr.

What were you doing before you joined the military?
I attended and graduated from Bishop McDevitt High School.

Did you enlist or where you drafted?
I received my draft notice when I was 19 years old in June 1968. I was sent to Ft. Dix for basic training. Then I was then sent to Ft. Polk, Indiana for advanced infantry training. I had never fired a gun. The first gun I fired was a M-14. I was scared and apprehensive about going to Vietnam. After I completed training, I was given two weeks off and then sent to Vietnam. I flew to Alaska, Japan and finally arrived in Vietnam. It took four days. I was sent to the 101st Airborne Division, and after one week of training was sent directly to the field. I was also introduced to Hershey’s Tropical Bar, a candy bar that was designed not to melt in the hot, humid weather of the tropics. It didn’t taste that good. In the field, I fired every conceivable weapon there was. My platoon supported the line companies. While I was not part of the Battle of Hamburger Hill, I lent support to those involved in the conflict. I was part of a Fire Base Airborne, a regiment of the 105th Artillery Division. My Company was split into two bases. The one base which I wasn’t at was overrun by enemy. Unfortunately, I had a couple of friends on the other base who were killed. In all, I was in Vietnam for two years. I was discharged in June 1970. I was also spit on, many times by hippies and others and was given the finger by these same people during my trip back home. At that time, I never told anyone about my service in Vietnam. My family knew, but I just didn’t talk about it.

What did you do after returning to civilian life?
I worked for the City Engineer’s office for Harrisburg and I went to HACC and took courses. I designed bridges, sewer lines and other things for the city. I was with the city of Harrisburg for 32 years holding various positions. I started as a car counter at intersections and eventually was employed as Assistant City Engineer. I retired at age 55 in 2003. I started a small land surveying company with Lonnie Moyer, but eventually dissolved the company. Then I worked for the Center for Disability Law & Policy, a state-wide advocacy organization for people with disabilities.

Who did you marry?
I married Kimberly Ann Miller, and we’ve been married for 40 years. We have five sons.

Do you belong to any veterans’ organizations or associations?
Yes. I have been a life member of the W.F.W. I am also a member of American Legion Robert H. Hoke Post 272 on Mountain Road in Linglestown. I serve as Post Service Officer and meet with veterans, answer their questions, and direct them to American Legion Officers or County Directors if they need further help.


Pat Devlin
Story And Photo By Jacqueline G. Goodwin, ED.D.

Most people don’t know that before he became the CEO and chief operation manager of a brewery, Pat Devlin called Afghanistan and Iraq home, if only for a while. He was there not as a tourist, but as a Navy SEAL.

The Navy’s Sea, Air and Land Forces – commonly known as SEALs – are expertly trained to deliver highly specialized, intensely challenging warfare capabilities that are beyond the means of standard military forces.

Their missions include: direct action warfare; special reconnaissance; counterterrorism; and foreign internal defense. When there’s nowhere else to turn, Navy SEALs achieve the impossible through critical thinking, sheer willpower and absolute dedication to their training, their missions and their fellow Special Operations team members.

Devlin says he found his pathway to the SEALS after graduating from Penn State with a degree in political science. “It began after enlistment when I was sent to Boot Camp in the Great Lakes, continued in San Antonia and San Diego and ended in Virginia Beach where I was eventually stationed,” says Devlin.

SEAL training is rigorous and lasts a minimum of six months, during which candidates are tested on their ability to endure limited sleep, brutal temperatures and tremendous stress—excellent preparation for what they will have to endure when deployed. During his journey to become a SEAL Devlin says he was swimming every day, running and lifting to prepare his body for BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL)—a grueling training period of which he successfully completed. Eventually Devlin’s commitment to the Navy resulted in two deployments—one to Iraq and another to Afghanistan.

While the stories of BUD/S are almost legendary, Devlin does not dwell on this period. To him, it was as expected.

“I loved the experience,” says Devlin. “There is a sense of accomplishment in becoming a SEAL. I worked side by side with a lot of good people, and made many friends in the process.” Devlin says he still stays in contact with the friends he made while a SEAL and regularly visits them.

The unofficial motto of the United States Navy is “non sibi sed patriae,” which means, “Not for self, but for country.” Devlin agrees and says it was a privilege to serve his country.

“After 9/11, I wanted to do something for my country in a very real and meaningful way,” says Devlin. “Becoming a SEAL just made sense.”

Devlin says being in the military taught him to be mission-focused, disciplined, a problem solver and also a team player. “The Navy prepared me for what lay ahead after my service ended,” says Devlin, who left the Navy in 2014.

“By this time I left the Navy, I was married and had two kids and really didn’t want to be away from my family for 260 days a year,” says Devlin. “So I decided it was time to return to civilian life.”

It was also the time that Devlin decided to make a dream conceived while attending high school come true.

“When I was attending Susquenita High School my friends Matt Fritz, Tony DeLellis, and Ben Ramsay and I always talked about opening a brewery,” says Devlin. “In 2014 we still had the dream and by 2015 Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works was on its way to becoming a reality.”

The four man team took over the former Elks building on the first block of South Union Street in Middletown. The 106-year-old building was in major disrepair and Devlin says there was a lot of structural work that needed to be done.

“We literally gutted the building,” says Devlin. “There were over 20 multiple yard dumpsters used in the process.” Devlin says the partners made the decision to maintain much of the integrity of the building. “We reused many of the materials from the original building and actually salvaged the art deco bar,” he says.

In July 2016, Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works officially opened its doors becoming Pennsylvania’s first and only co-branded and co-located craft brewery and craft distillery. A second location in Gettysburg—Tattered Flag Tap Room—was recently opened, completing what started out as a dream of four high school buddies in 2000 a reality.