Veteran recalls memories of WWII: 'I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it.'

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MARION, Iowa (KCRG) - Ten years ago, Albert Etzel’s late wife created a book to remind their family of her husband’s service in World War II.

For Etzel, it started not long after he graduated from Marion High School in 1943.

“Right out of school, 18 year old in a combat zone,” he said. “It was very scary, but we had to do it.”

Etzel served in the infantry of the US Army, fighting in the Pacific theater under General Douglas Macarthur.

“We took four islands altogether, counting New Guinea, and three islands in the Philippines,” he said.

After the war ended, Etzel spent a few more months in Japan before being honorably discharged from the army.

“I farmed with my dad for five years after I got back,” he said. “Then I got married, and I was married for 60 years, a little over 60 years, and we had six kids.”

When Etzel retired in 1988, his family bought him this 1930 Ford to restore.

It was his gift for not only working on the farm, but also within the City of Marion for a couple decades.

“I worked in the public works department, done a little bit of everything from street department work to sewer work — whatever there was to do,” he said.

Ten years ago, Etzel took part in an honor flight to Washington, D.C., with other veterans.

He still gets choked up thinking about the World War II monument, which is dedicated to more than 400,000 Americans killed or still missing from the war.

“It’s been 75 years, and some of those instances stand out just like they were yesterday. So many of them,” he said.

Etzel also keeps an album filled with photos he took during the war. But it holds memories he said he doesn’t like to dwell on.

“I couldn’t repeat it,” he said. “I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it.”

Etzel will be honored at the Tribute to Heroes on June 22 as part of Cedar Rapids’ annual Freedom Festival.

While many would call Etzel and anyone else who served in World War II a hero, he said he doesn’t consider himself to be one.

“Just doing my job,” he said. “Doing what had to be done.”