Johnstown World War II veteran Warren Coate can recite the dates of service to his country like it was yesterday -- July 13, 1943 to Jan. 8, 1945.

Johnstown World War II veteran Warren Coate can recite the dates of service to his country like it was yesterday -- July 13, 1943 to Jan. 8, 1945.

Despite painful experiences he would rather forget of two months spent at the Battle of the Bulge, Coate was one of Johnstown's American Legion members who took time to remember during Memorial Day ceremonies in Croton and Johnstown.

"I was a draftee," he said. "On the draft form, there was a place to put down hobbies. I put down hunting, so they put me in the infantry. Of the 30 months in service, 210 days were in combat."

As a member of the Fourth Infantry Division, Coate remembers one day in battle when replacements arrived -- men who had been drafted barely a week before.

"They were in the front line and none of those men had training," he said, tears welling up in his eyes.

After a good friend was killed, Coate said he didn't get close to other fellow soldiers.

"They got wounded or killed quickly," he said. " It was a mental battle for years."

The 20-year Johnstown resident moves his ear close to hear you speak, as a result of hearing loss he experienced when a German mortar shell exploded too close to him.

"Memorial Day is for men like this," said Ed McDonald, who retired as an Army master sergeant in 2000 after 27 years of service. "People think Memorial Day is a picnic day. They don't realize why they are free. We don't want America to forget."

McDonald, of Newark, joined Johnstown's American Legion Post 254 three years ago because "what they do for the community is super," he said.

"I joined this post because of its leadership," McDonald added. "Don Jakeway is one hell of a man."

Jakeway is commander of the post, and he was a member of the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment. He served as a sergeant in H Company, third platoon and is a veteran of Normandy, Holland and the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium.

Second vice general Bruce Tolle has been a member of Johnstown's Post 254 for many years but was just recently made aware of what it does for the community. During the past year, the local American Legion post put $11,000 back into the community through various activities.

The legion donates flags for the local cemetery, Johnstown-Monroe High School, the villages of Johnstown and Croton, Babcock Library and Chimes Terrace.

"We provide military honors at veterans' funerals," Tolle added. "We provide the July 4 awards and every Christmas morning for the last 30 years, we've made a trip to give gifts to veterans who are patients in Chillicothe."

The legion also sponsors a pancake breakfast twice a year and members man concession stands at American Legion baseball games. They provide Gifts for Yanks and send two high school juniors to Boys State every year.

The post also sponsors two American Legion baseball teams and assists Johnstown's Safety Village.

In addition, the legion sponsors Johnstown's annual Easter Egg Hunt, Toys for Tots, the July 4 fireworks and the Little Miss Firecracker Pageant.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

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