With each passing day, we say goodbye to more and more of our World War II Veterans, members of the Greatest Generation. During the conflict, 16 million Americans answered the call to serve, but only approximately 240,000 remain. Martinsburg VA, with over 37,000 Veterans enrolled, including a little over 1,000 WWII Veterans.
While caring for the health of our nation’s Veterans is always at the forefront of what VA does, it’s also just as important to learn about them: who they are, where they came from and how they made it through.
Their story – the sights and sounds of the second World War, with its struggles, losses, and victories – will fade to memories. The least we can do is carry on those stories.
WWII Veterans currently living at the Martinsburg VA community living center are aged between 99- and 100-years old and each have a unique story. Two of them are Kenneth Hirst and Raymond Dorsey.
Hirst is one of seven children and was among two of his brothers to serve in WWII. He was 21, working with the Civilian Conservation Corps in Illinois, when drafted and sent overseas only a few months after basic training.
A Purple Heart recipient, he was on a march to Rome when he was injured by sniper fire in Anzio. While receiving care for his injuries, he learned that his entire unit was lost. Hirst was stationed in Maryland upon his return stateside where he met his wife, Marjorie, of 52 years.
Wallet gift from his mother saved his life
Born and raised in Maryland, Sergeant Raymond Dorsey was just 16 when he received his draft notice. He was a rifleman in the infantry and was frequently on the front lines. Dorsey engaged in many conflicts, notably at the Battle of the Bulge, but most vividly remembers the instance in which the wallet given to him by his mother deflected a bullet and saved his life.
He would later be awarded a Purple Heart for severe injuries that nearly cost him both legs.
Dorsey returned from the battlefield to eventually work on his family’s farm, marrying his wife Grace at the age of 18. The farm is now home to his granddaughter and her family.
Although a hero, he wishes to be remembered as just a family man.
Nearly a century later, it’s hard to comprehend the world as it was then. The Greatest Generation answered our nation’s call like no other. They set a high standard for future service members and forever solidified how the world would view the United States and its military might.
The Martinsburg VA strives to honor the legacy of its WWII Veterans today and every day.