LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Gerard Arthur Becnel was 16 when he graduated from high school and just 17 when he signed up for the U.S. Navy in World War II.
"I was 14 when the war broke out. I predicted I would get the very end of it at the time, and I did. Not much of it, but I did. It was the thing to do. It was what Americans did. Everybody was involved in that war," he said.
Before entering basic training, most soldiers were being prepared for a ground war attack on Japan. Many predicted that would result in hundreds of thousands of American deaths.
"When I left for the Navy, Mama was uptight about it. She thought her little boy was going off to get killed, maybe. It didn't happen, thank goodness, I never even got close," Becnel said.
Fortunately, the war ended, and Becnel returned home. Years later, after church one Sunday, he invited visiting Fort Polk soldier Bob Kasmerzak to lunch.
"He left for Vietnam, and early the next year, he was killed when he tripped a land mine. He had confided that he wasn't sure that had any business there, but he had a job to do, and he did it."
To Gerard Arthur Becnal, Bob Kazmierczak was a true hero.
Becnel later taught math and science at LaGrange Jr. High in Lake Charles and went into private industry. He's written several articles on his life and published a book, River Road Moments.