Shamokin Dam resident and WWII combat veteran, Glenn Hooks, first came to Union-Snyder CAA in April 2018 to meet Snyder County Veterans Affairs Director, Tony Korzenaski, for assistance with filing a claim through the VA. What began as an average appointment quickly became much more as Mr. Hooks’ infectious personality and engaging stories took hold of Korzenaski. Inspired, he asked Mr. Hooks to share his service experience with CAA staff in honor of the Memorial Day holiday. Without hesitation, Mr. Hooks jumped at the opportunity.
Mr. Hooks left his hometown of Kittanning, PA, in 1943 in his late teens to board a ship from the Boston Harbor. From the Boston Harbor, it took the ship of 7,500 soldiers three and a half days to reach their destination of England before they crossed the English Channel and landed at Utah Beach in Normandy, France. Though the ship traveled quickly, he shared, it was no easy trip with so many others on board.
From France, he and his battalion traveled through Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg until they ended up in Germany on the east side of the Elbe River. He spoke of this time camped at the Elbe River - a welcomed break, until, from out of nowhere, his men started noticing artillery shells “falling from the sky”. His commander picked up a shell and read the word “Russian”; the Russian army was throwing shells at his men from the west side of the river as their way of communicating to the U.S. that they were on their way to Berlin.
Mr. Hooks spoke of his time during Battle of the Bulge, where approximately 80,000 American lives were lost. He honored the hundreds of snow-covered American bodies he encountered in his travels. He shared his experience of the work he and his fellow soldiers did in helping to liberate the Nordhausen Concentration Camp. He recalled stumbling into an abandoned lime stone mine, only to find that it was being used as barracks that played part in manufacturing V2 bombs (i.e. self-propelled bombs).
Through the grim details of the realities of war, Mr. Hooks made time for light, as he remarked that he was not the only one experiencing the “Battle of the Bulge’ - his wife was home in Pennsylvania, several months pregnant with their first child. Six months after Larry Glenn Hooks’ arrival, Mr. Hooks returned home to meet his son. His son’s response, he says, was a crying fit.
Mr. Hooks began his speech at CAA by sharing his objective: to steer us away from the modern-day thinking of Memorial Day. Rather than a day about being off work, or celebrating the beginning of summer, it’s a day to remember what war is truly about. “If I could give my speech a title,” Mr. Hooks remarked, “it would be ‘Freedom is Not Free’. Each Memorial Day, I take time to read the names of the deceased; to remember my friends.”