Campus Community School honors military veterans

DOVER — Retired Army infantry Staff Sgt. Al Deusa has many terrifying stories from his two years fighting in the European Theater of Operations during World War II.

However, he decided to share one of his more humorous stories with a seventh-grade class Friday morning at Campus Community School’s veteran celebration.

In France, shortly after arriving, Mr. Deusa and his platoon stopped in an apple orchard for the night. As was the custom in hostile territory, his fellow soldiers took turns sleeping one hour and sitting at watch one hour in shifts.

During his sleep shift, he awoke suddenly to gunfire.

“It’s dark out so you can’t see anything, but if you wake up to firing, you just grab your gun and join in the shooting,” he said. “Come daylight the next morning, sure enough, we could see five bodies out in the orchard. There were five dead cows.

Mission BBQ in Dover donated two gift certificates to the veterans attending the event. They were distributed to Joe Lear and Paige Yancy, the oldest veteran and the youngest veteran in attendance, respectively. (Delaware State News/Ian Gronau)

Mission BBQ in Dover donated two gift certificates to the veterans attending the event. They were distributed to Joe Lear and Paige Yancy, the oldest veteran and the youngest veteran in attendance, respectively.
(Delaware State News/Ian Gronau)

“If you’re on watch and you hear someone in the dark, you tell them to halt. But if they keep coming, you just have to shoot. When I talked to the guy on duty at the time, he said, ‘All they had to do was say Moo.”

Mr. Deusa and the assembled students had a chuckle at the five cows’ expense, but he said it was an unfortunate mistake. However, trying to find the humor in dark situations is what helped him get through the war, he said.

“I felt sorry for the cows, and for the farmer. That was a huge loss for him,” he said. “Even though combat is scary and deadly, we had to look at something that could make us laugh once in awhile.

“It’s a good idea to always try to be positive rather than negative, and you’ll do a whole lot better in your life if you do.”

The annual event at the tuition-free, public charter school in Dover brought over a dozen veterans and other service members to Campus Community School so they could be honored at a flag raising ceremony, share their reflections with students, and answer questions during classroom presentations.

The students also served veterans a pancake breakfast.

The school holds the event on the Friday prior to Veteran’s Day because it’s closed on Nov.11.

Mission BBQ in Dover donated two gift certificates to the veterans, as well. These were distributed to Joe Lear and Paige Yancy, the oldest veteran and the youngest veteran in attendance, respectively.

Retired Army infantry Staff Sergeant Al Deusa tells a 7th grade class at Campus Community School in Dover about his experiences in World War II. (Delaware State News/Ian Gronau)

Retired Army infantry Staff Sergeant Al Deusa tells a 7th grade class at Campus Community School in Dover about his experiences in World War II. (Delaware State News/Ian Gronau)

Mr. Lear, who’s granddaughter, Jessica Rash, teaches at the school, was attending the event for the second year. In the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Lear specialized in logistics, manpower allocation and administrative work. Humble about his lengthy military career, he claims not to have done anything “too exciting”.

The annual event brought over a dozen veterans and other service members to Campus Community School so they could be honored at a flag raising ceremony, share their reflections with students and answer questions during classroom presentations. (Delaware State News/Ian Gronau)

The annual event brought over a dozen veterans and other service members to Campus Community School so they could be honored at a flag raising ceremony, share their reflections with students and answer questions during classroom presentations.
(Delaware State News/Ian Gronau)

“I didn’t shoot at anyone and no one shot at me,” he said. “I joined the Air Force during World War II in 1942. During the war I went through a lot of training programs, but before I knew it, the war was over.

“I had an opportunity to get back in the service afterward so I reenlisted because I liked service life. I was sent to Japan, Istanbul and just about everywhere in between — then back in 1964 I retired.”

Happy to return for the event, he feels it’s important to talk about service life to students so they understand what’s involved and what brave service men and women have done in the past to protect American freedom.

Principal Leroy Travers and the event’s organizer, Jennifer Boland, took an opportunity during breakfast to extend their heartfelt thanks to the veterans and extol the benefit their presence has on students.

“You may or may not realize it, but after you leave you will have impacted these students for a long time,” said Mr. Travers, addressing the veterans. “Several of the students you will have impacted for the rest of their lives because they’ll see you today and go home and say; ‘Mom, that’s what I want to do when I grow up.”

In his presentation to the 7th grade classroom, Mr. Deusa explained he was drafted at the start of American involvement in World War II.

“I was only 18, I wasn’t even shaving yet, and Uncle Sam said, ‘Come here, I want you,” he said.

After 17 weeks of stateside training, he was shipped overseas where he participated in the second day of the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.

“I went in the day after the main invasion as a replacement. Gen. George Patton told us: ‘You SOBs are going to war to fill dead men’s shoes,” said Mr. Deusa.

To the class’s amusement, he told another story about being so awestruck by a sky full of fighters and bombers that he accidentally put himself in harm’s way. He remembers, on one occasion, looking up to see so many airplanes in the sky on their way to bomb German targets that they partially obscured the sun.

“There were so many of them that it was like a giant cloud moving over, it was amazing,” he said. “Although, it’s not the wisest thing in the world to watch dog-fighting between two planes. One time I was just sitting there watching a P-38 and a German airplane dog=fighting and all of a sudden I hear ‘ting-ting-ting’ on the ground right next to me as they swooped down and fired at each other and I said; ‘Woah! That’s real!”

His deployment, which lasted from D-Day to V-E Day and after, took him through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and into Czechoslovakia, hitting numerous big battles along the way such as the Battle of the Bulge.

“We were part of the occupation army for about a month and a half after the war, and then we came back in 1945,” he said. “I remember boarding the ship home in France on my 20th birthday. It was the greatest birthday present I ever had.”

After the war, he was given the chance to reenlist, but said that he was ready to be done. As a 20-year-old combat infantryman he’d had his “bellyful” of war, he said.

As he closed his presentation he wanted to share the importance of respecting instructors and teachers to the 7th grade class. He recalled his time in basic training as a defining moment.

“Basic training is where they turn you from a civilian into a soldier,” he said, addressing the students. “I was determined, at that age, that I was going to try to be the best at everything they were teaching us. I listened to my instructors because I knew what they had to say was important.

“You have to pay attention and remember what you’re taught. What you’re learning today is what you’ll be using when you become men and women. We’re looking forward to your generation as this county’s new leaders.”

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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