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Final Honor Flight: Merrill's Marauders Veteran

June 10, 2011, 6:33 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Final Honor Flight: Merrill's Marauders Veteran
WASHINGTON, D.C. - There are still memories more than 60 years later that are too painful for World War II veterans to share.

But after decades of silence, some are just now starting to talk about it. Etched in stone at one end of the World War II Memorial are the places China, Burma and India. Etched in Delmar Strunk's mind just as strong are memories of his time serving in that part of the world.

"I saw most everything," Strunk said.

And he can't imagine ever forgetting everything from more than 60 years ago either. He had his training and wanted to do something in the war. So he volunteered when a request came down.

"Hazardous duty, be gone one year, must be in perfect health," Strunk said. "That's what the poster said."

As he tells his story now, Strunk says he didn't know quite what he was getting himself into. He was joining a unit known as Merrill's Marauders. They marched through rough terrain into Burma, behind enemy lines.

Strunk described their work as very secretive but says it didn't take long for the enemy to learn they were there.

"Scared for you life all the time because you never knew. They were probably looking at you and you could never see them," Strunk said.

"I had a good buddy got killed over there with a sniper. Just as innocent as anything but they happened to put it on him. Shot him right through the heart, died right there," Strunk said.

That's just one person Strunk saw killed. As he wondered if he'd be next, Strunk says he lived minute by minute.

"It was just by the grace of God. If you didn't pray when you went in, you learned to pray and pray good, with your face in the dirt especially when they were throwing artillery on you," Strunk said.

"I'd have to lose my mind completely to forget it. I'll never forget it. They're just as clear as now as they were 60 years ago in my mind, those events. They're drilled into me," Strunk said.

Those are memories he's only recently been able to share.

"Now I can talk about it. I think it's what people should know. I'm not ashamed of it; I'm proud of it now. I'm more proud than ever," Strunk said.

Strunk also says he was often starving. He figures he lost around 30 pounds during his months in Burma.

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