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WWII veterans who trained for war together reconnect at a senior living center

By DILLON CARR | The Tribune-Review | Published: November 30, 2018

GREENSBURG, Pa. (Tribune News Service) — Robert Adams handed his camera to someone close by and got a group of other cadets in training to get in line for a photo.

The trainees lined up in two rows and smiled, and the image was captured. Most of those 20 cadets of the Army Air Forces went their separate ways that day. Some fought and died in the war. Others stayed stateside in reserve. The year was 1944.

Adams, now 95, went on to serve on the European front of World War II as a radio operator in the infantry.

Almost 75 years later, Adams still has that black-and-white picture in a frame.

Just recently, he tracked down one other man who is in the photo.

He didn’t have to go far to find him. Wes Piros, 95, lives a couple of doors down from him at Beatty Pointe Village along Beatty Road in Monroeville.

“I was excited. It sure brought back a lot of memories,” Adams said.

The two said they don’t remember meeting each other during their 10 weeks of Army Air Forces training at Hoosier Air Field. But when the two started talking recently at breakfast, they began to learn what they had in common — and the list is long.

For starters, the veterans were born three days apart in October 1923, one in East McKeesport and the other in the South Hills. Shortly after the men enlisted, they both spent time in Texas to qualify to be a pilot, bombardier or navigator in the military’s nascent branch, the Army Air Forces, which eventually became the U.S. Air Force.

After Texas, they each spent time in Indiana, where the 74-year-old picture was taken.

Adams and Piros said they slowly learned about their commonalities over breakfasts at the independent living center in Monroeville. One day, Adams brought the picture down.

“And he says, ‘Oh, this is when I was taking the flight training …’ and he says, ‘That’s me.’ And he handed it to me and he says, ‘Are you in that picture?’ ” Piros said, adding that he didn’t recognize himself in the picture until he looked closer.

“Suddenly, ‘Wait a minute. That’s me,’ and I damn near fell off my chair because it was like, ‘I am on that picture,’ ” Piros said.

Piros ended up serving until the end of the war on the West Coast as a reservist working on bomber planes. Although the veterans did not both serve overseas, the friends bond over their time in the war whenever they get the chance. The camaraderie was unexpected, they said, but they both welcome the community. There are five men, most of them veterans, who eat breakfast together at the center almost every morning, they said.

“Most men here are veterans. One of the first questions we ask is, ‘Where’d you serve?’ ” Adams said.

dcarr@tribweb.com

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