World War II veterans honored at CH Campbell Elementary ceremony

CAMPBELL, Ohio (WYTV) – It has been more than 70 years since the end of World War II, and Friday, some local school children honored a handful of veterans from that war.

These vets are in their 90s now, having served when the grandparents of these students would have been children.

Jim Duffett, a 95-year-old Canfield man, served three years in the Navy “Seabees.” He entered the service when he was 20 — roughly half of the age of others in his unit.

He’s still pretty spry and remembers the day he entered the service — January 4, 1943.

“The average age of a Seabee in World War II was 38 years old, and when I went in, I was 20,” Duffett said.

He was one of several World War II veterans attending Friday’s program at CH Campbell Elementary.

His three years in the Navy started in North Africa.

“There, we built pontoon causeways for the invasion of Sicily and Italy,” Duffett said.

Later, he helped build barges for the invasions of both Okinawa and Iwo Jima and was assigned to a hospital ship.

“I helped guide the wounded down into a hold where they’d work on them, and so I got credit for evacuating Marines there at Iwo,” he said.

Merton Bertelmay, 91, dropped out of high school to go into the service, enlisting at the age of 17. He spent his Navy years on a destroyer escort in the Pacific, returning to the Valley — and Youngstown College — when the war ended.

“There was only the main building, which is now Jones Hall, and Army barracks behind it where we went to classes,” he said.

As the children sang the National Anthem, Duffett still salutes, saying there may not be many left from his old unit. It’s still important to remember them and all of the rest who serve.

“As the years go and you see things going and going, I think it’s a nice thing that they do, honor veterans for what they have done for the country,” he said.