Their stories are painful and poignant.
For Memorial Day, Patch interviewed local veterans from Lake and McHenry counties and shared their stories here through stories, photos and video.
We are honored so many veterans chose to share their stories with us, and we are honored to share them with you.
Read through for excerpts or follow the links to each Patch site for the full story.
Each story introduces you to a different local veteran. Each story aims to put their memories into words. Each story is honest and emotional.
And each story is worth telling.
Local Vietnam Vet Followed In Family's Footsteps
Jim Mertz also volunteers his time to educate on the importance of patriotism and talks to local fifth graders about the American flag.
More than 40 years later, Jim Mertz recalls vividly being hit during "in-city fighting’’ while serving in Vietnam.
An Army veteran, Memorial Day is just one more day in the year when the Algonquin resident remembers the horrific time he spent caught up in battle.
"I wanted to be like my uncle who was in the Korean War, my dad who was in WWII and both my grandpas and one grandma,’’ Mertz said of all of his family members who served their country.
Drafted when he was 19 years old, he was deployed on Feb. 15, 1967. Traveling with an engineering outfit, his duties included going out into the field to build small houses for American Green Beret Advisors.
Area Man Recalls Days as Machine Gunner in WWII
World War II veteran writes memories of his time at war.
As Art Bauer flips through the pages of a book he compiled about his days as a machine gunner in World War II, the events come back to him like it was yesterday.
At 87 years old, he is part of a dwindling generation of WWII veterans, with "very few left,’’ the Army veteran said. A Chicago native, Bauer was drafted at age 18 and served his country from February 1943 until December 1945. He had no idea exactly what he had signed up to do.
"The only thing I got to decide was whether I’d be Army or Navy,’’ the Algonquin resident said. "We all picked Army – like dopes. We didn’t know any better.’’
Barrington Patch paid tribute to the veterans living in the village with its , which profiled four local veterans.
World War II Vet Honored by French Government for Role in D-Day
Lois Sportsman shares the story of her husband, Sergeant Clyde Sportsman, a decorated war hero.
Sgt. Clyde Sportsman didn’t talk too much about D-Day.
But his wife Lois says she knows he feels survivor’s guilt. He sometimes told her he wondered why he lived, while so many men around him died. In particular, he recalled being unable to save a man who had fallen in a well.
But Sergeant Sportsman, who lived in Elgin most of his life and now resides at Crystal Pines Nursing Home in Crystal Lake, did save lives.
Memories of War Haunt Huntley Veteran
Heritage Woods resident shares his memories of the Vietnam War in honor of Memorial Day.
Frank Wheeler won’t be at any Memorial Day parades. He’ll be sitting in his wheelchair, probably wearing his trademark black baseball hat that reads “Purple Heart Wounded Veteran.”
The Vietnam veteran doesn’t go to parades. People don’t understand if he starts crying or if he starts staring into space as he’s emotionally and mentally transported to the years he spent in Vietnam.
A Heritage Woods resident, Wheeler served in the U.S. Marines from 1967 to 1978. He was 18 years old when he first saw combat.
He is one of five veterans at the assisted living facility, said Lynn Mortenson, who plans activities at Heritage Woods.
Lake Zurich Resident Recalls WWII Military Service
By Korrina Grom
Dale Blau was just 21 years old when he decided to enlist in the United States Army.
A couple of his friends had already been drafted, while Blau was attending barber school and completing a two-year apprenticeship. He completed that program on Jan. 30, 1942.
"I could see I wasn't going to get anywhere (as a barber)," said Blau, 91, a life-long Lake Zurich resident. His father drove him to Fort Sheridan on Feb. 2, and Blau enlisted in the military.
Soon, Blau was off to Camp Robinson in Little Rock, AR.
"It was there that I became a medic, and I was very happy," said Blau. He received three months of training and was put in charge of a group of 40 medics. His group was assigned to the repair squadron of the 27th Air Depot.
Royal Air Force Veteran Shares His Experience
Selby Hussey talks about his experience as pilot in World War II.
The Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Patch digs a photo out of community archives of
The Lake Zurich Patch Bringing Back the Past column looks a whose ship was torpedoed.