DENVER (CBS4) – Veterans Day is an opportunity to thank veterans for their service, but one veteran is thanking the military for the opportunity.
Richard “Steve” Stevens is 95-years-old, but he clearly remembers his time in World War II.
“At that time our standing Army, regular Army was about 135,000, so there were several hundred thousand National Guardsmen, who on Pearl Harbor Day had been in training almost a year,” Stevens explained.
He was among those National Guardsmen. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Stevens was activated and sent to the Pacific Theater, some of the fiercest fighting in the war. He was an Army squad leader in the Guadalcanal campaign.
“The Japanese kept coming to try to get on the land, and did get…were on the land, kept sending in more and more forces as theirs got whittled away,” Stevens told CBS4.
U.S. troops killed nearly 20,000 Japanese soldiers on the island.
“It was a 6-month long battle, involving the army, the navy, and the marines,” he remembered.
Stevens was right in the middle of it. He was just 18-years-old.
“When you get into combat, you’re frightened.”
Frightened or not, Stevens took to army life. He reenlisted and had a 35-year career. He served in two more wars, and rose to the rank of Colonel in the military police.
“It was important that if you were ever dissatisfied with the job or where you were at, don’t worry, because the military was going to transfer you someplace else,” he said.
He was transferred to Germany for 7-years, and spent a total of 13-years out of country. But, it was his early experiences he says really shaped who he became.
“It was good at 18 to have some responsibility, and to prove oneself as being able to do a job in a disciplined outfit. It was important,” Stevens said.
He said that’s an important opportunity that most young people could benefit from.
Stevens continues to give back. He shares his experiences and knowledge of the Guadalcanal campaign with civic and educational organizations.