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95-year-old veteran talks about choosing to serve in WWII

Veterans from various wars, conflicts and operations stand at the Veterans Day services at the Harrietstown Town Hall in Saranac Lake Monday. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

SARANAC LAKE — During the Veterans Day ceremony Monday at the Harrietstown Town Hall, Army Col. James Pierson pointed out that there have been 42 million veterans since the American Revolution, many of whom chose to serve. He compared making that choice to Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.”

“Ask any veteran, and you will surely hear their story of the fork in the woods,” he said.

Pierson asked all the veterans in the room to stand. More than 30 people rose to their feet. Pierson then asked those who fought in World War II to remain standing.

Only 95-year-old Fred Brooks was left. He’s a rarity these days. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 389,292 vets are still alive from the initial 16 million who served in WWII.

Brooks originally tried to enlist with a friend shortly after the U.S. entered the war. He was rejected on account of a hernia. While recovering from the injury, he was drafted.

World War II veteran Fred Brooks recites the U.S. Oath of Enlistment for Military Services during the Veterans Day services at the Harrietstown Town Hall in Saranac Lake Monday. (Enterprise photos — Griffin Kelly)

“I eventually got in anyway,” he said.

Brooks was part of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. He fought in the Netherlands and Bastogne, Belgium, and was injured by mortar shrapnel on both occasions.

During the services, all the vets were asked to recite the U.S. Oath of Enlistment for Military Services. Brooks said he enjoys saying the words he initially spoke nearly 80 years ago.

“I’m always proud to do it. I’m proud of my service,” he said. “I’ve got sons and grandson who serve, too. In fact, today I just got a call from one of my grandsons who’s a sergeant major training in Texas.”

After the event had ended, a group of local Boy Scouts gathered around Brooks, looking to shake his hand and thank him for his service.

World War II veteran Fred Brooks speaks with local Boy Scouts at the Veterans Day services at the Harrietstown Town Hall in Saranac Lake Monday. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

The ceremony closed with everyone in the town hall singing “God Bless America.” Brooks firmly hugged his wife Jean as the two crooned along to the anthem.

CU photo gallery of Saranac Lake Veterans Day ceremony

Saranac Lake High School Band Director Keith Kogut plays “Taps” Monday during a Veterans Day ceremony at the Harrietstown Town Hall. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

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