ASHLAND — At a time in their lives when they felt different from everyone else, four local men were surprised to find the experiences that separated them from the rest are the reason they were brought together.
All four defended U.S. liberties in World War II, married the loves of their lives upon returning to American soil and lived lives devoted to Christianity and family and recently faced the deaths of their spouses.
But without the push of a friend, these men, who share so many experiences, may have never come together under one roof.
Ashland resident Scott Wells hosted a luncheon Thursday at Bob Evans in Ashland to introduce the men to each other, while collectively honoring the good deeds of their pasts.
The four are: Norman Beebe from Ironton; Tom Heaberlin from Wurtland; Norman Camp from Russell and Clifford Oney from Raceland.
Camp and Beebe not only share first names, but also bought the same car in the same shade of blue from their mutual friend, Wells. But, even more interesting, is the story behind their engagements to their spouses and how they chose to got married after returning home from the war.
Beebe was engaged to his future wife before leaving to serve in World War II. He promised his fiancee that they would be married when he returned home.
He said one day when sailing back to the U.S., a radio operator asked if he could say something to his fiancé, “What would he want to say?”
He said he told the man he would ask her to go to the courthouse and get the marriage license and blood test completed so they could marry as soon as he came back to town.
When he arrived home, his fiancee was waiting on him and asked about the radio message.
Beebe said he had no idea his requests were actually communicated to his fiancee and they were able to be married the next day, just shortly before his next deployment.
Camp similarly was engaged to his wife before leaving to serve in the war, and had requested for her dad to take her to the jewelry shop to buy her an engagement ring.
Sure enough, her dad agreed to do so and the couple was married as soon as he returned to U.S. soil.
Beebe and Heaberlin were the oldest of the group at age 92. Camp and Oney both happen to be 89 years old.
Camp served in the Army, Heaberlin served in the civil service, Oney and Beebe were both in the Navy.
To honor the men for their dedication to both their religious beliefs, their country and their families, Wells presented them with medallions engraved with Bald Eagles on the front and their names and Bible verse Isaiah 40:31 on the backs.
The verse matched the theme of the display Wells decorated on the table behind the men, adorned with a green Army helmet, collectable model warplanes, eagle statues and other “symbols of freedom,” as he called them.
He also had the men sign the inside cover of his book “The Greatest Generation” by Tom Brokaw, listing their names, dates of births and branches of military they served.
Shortly after their meals, the men went their separate ways, but said they value the new friendships made at the luncheon and now know that what makes them unique, also makes them the same.