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Local WWII veterans celebrate milestone
SILSBEE - by Lauren Huet
They're called the Greatest Generation. Those who fought for freedom against the Axis Powers in World War II, and now their ranks are diminishing. Every day nearly 600 World War II veterans die. Sixteen million Americans served during WWII, now there are only about 1 million left. The U.S. Veterans Administration predicts by the year 2036, all World War II veterans will be gone. However, the stories of their valor and triumphs will never fade.
Paul Arceneaux fought as an infantryman in the Pacific Theater. "Oh yes, you were scared, but you have to do what you have to do," said Arceneaux, who lives in Lumberton, Texas.
The World War II veteran was drafted in 1942, when he was 18 years old.
"Well it was expected, so I wasn't surprised, because I was healthy and I should go," said Arceneaux.
But it was still hard for the boy from Louisiana.
"Well yes for a young kid that hadn't been 50 miles from home in his whole life, and my first trip was to California," said Arceneaux. "I had basic training in Camp Roberts california."
From basic training, he headed out to fight in the Pacific Theater until he was honorably discharged December 25, 1945.
Arceneaux's long time friend James H. McClammy also served in World War II.
"I was raised in Livingston," said McClammy. "Well, I kissed the ground when I got back."
McClammy served in the 101st Airborne, 501st Regiment, E Company.
"I made a parachute jump into Holland. It was called Market Gardens, that was the title of the invasion," said McClammy. "It was the largest airborne unit put together in World War II."
Memories of soldiers' sacrifice are still fresh in his mind.
"This was in my mothers house when I was in the service," said McClammy, holding a relic from his time in the 101st Airborne, "and I know of several mothers that their boys didn't come home."
"Nobody really knows how great this country is," said McClammy with tears in his eyes, "and the sacrifices that so many people made."
McClammy was wounded in battle and Arceneaux was wounded twice in battle.
"No, I never dreamed I would make it this far," said Arceneaux, "but if I had known I was going to live that long I would have taken better care of myself."
Arceneaux's six kids threw him a huge 90th birthday celebration April 12, 2014, at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Silsbee. Almost 200 people attended, including Arceneaux's six kids, 12 grandkids, and 20 great grandkids. His good friends the McClammys attended as well.
Arceneaux's daughter Mary Burns says her father deserves to have a big celebration.
"We just wanted him to be honored, and there are so many people who would want to honor him and be there for his 90th birthday, and so that's why we decided we were going to do it," said Burns.
"I am just overwhelmed really. They have been the most wonderful family," said Arceneaux.
Both Arceneaux and McClammy are grateful to be in Silsbee celebrating.
"I did not make D-Day, but I came in as a replacement for D-Day, and it's been a great life. It really has," said McClammy, "and I've lived to see it."
"There's not many of us left, no, but I'm blessed that I'm here and I have a wonderful family," said Arceneaux.