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Kansas City veterans share stories of resilience, heroism while serving during WWII

Heart of America Patriot Foundation
Posted at 10:26 PM, Nov 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-08 23:27:17-05

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Six World War II veterans took attendees of the Heart of America Patriot Foundation's event Wednesday night back in time in their own words.

"I'm proud of watching the Japanese surrender; that was the highlight of my career," said Ray Shockley, a WWII veteran.

They are the only ones who can tell their stories.

"I served in British Army," said Sally Keithley-McCulley, a WWII Veteran who served in the British Royal Signal Corps.

Keithley-McCulley said she wanted to serve so badly at 17 years old that she lied about her age to get in.

Sally Keithley-McCulley
Sally Keithley-McCulley was a member of the British Royal Signal Corps in WWII.

"[I] was afraid the war would be over before I was old enough to join," she said.

Bill Casassa was a member of the US Army. He goes by "William." He served in the Tank Destroyer battallions in Europe. With his M-18 Hellcat crew, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

Bill Casassa
Bill "William" Casassa, was a member of the US Army in WWII.

"Combat picked up on the 18th day of November in 1944, and my unit was fully engaged for 171 consecutive days of combat," Casassa said.

Charles Staubus was a member of the US Army in WWII. He served with the 101st/82nd Airborne Divisions.

Charles Staubus
A member of the US Army in WWII, Charles Staubus served with the 101st/82nd Airborne Divisions.

"I attempted to enlist in the Navy, and they told me I was almost completely color blind," he said. "I don't think they would let me in because they use signal flags. I waited until they drafted me in the Army."

All of these veterans put on a uniform at an early age.

"I said to my mother and father, 'I want to join the Army.' My mother kept saying, 'You're too young, you're too young,' because I was too young. I lied about my age," Keithley-McCulley said.

No matter how long ago they served, their memories are sharp and vivid.

"If you don't get much in this world, you're going to get some candor from a veteran," Casassa said. "I was terrified, terrified most of the time."

Some veterans volunteered for service and others didn't have a choice. There are some memories that will always stick.

"It was the stench of the death camp that I'll never forget it. Other things I may forget, but I won't forget that." Casassa said.

If you get the chance to sit down with a WWII veteran, most can't describe war in a word.

"I really, really can't. Not one word," Casassa said.

However, some can describe a feeling that can make them emotional every now and then.

Keithley-McCulley said: "Patriotism, yes."