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Tales of war from those who lived them

(ran PC edition of PASCO TIMES)

Shirley Weisberger remembers when her then boyfriend and future husband, William, volunteered for the armed forces: Dec. 8, 1941. That was the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and plunged American into World War II.

She remembers when her son, Sandy, enlisted to become a paratrooper with the army's 101st Airborne Division and went on to lead a long-range reconnaissance patrol in Vietnam. The 83-year-old also remembers when her son-in-law, Robert Gomori, risked his life as a machine gunner in Vietnam. And she remembers when her grandson, David Sutch, headed to the Mideast to serve in Operation Desert Storm, the first Persian Gulf War.

Thus, it is fitting that Weisberger has titled her veterans' commemorative production, Remember When . . . 1940-1950-1960. The premiere is to be staged 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Regency Oaks clubhouse, Breakwater Boulevard, east of U.S. 19 just south of Weeki Wachee.

"It's something I've always wanted to do," Weisberger said, "because we were a very patriotic and military family."

No one in Weisberger's family served in Korea _ "They called it a "police action"' she scoffs, displaying some of the fervor that fueled her writing. "They didn't call that a war. How do you tell the fathers and mothers of those boys who never came home that they weren't in a war?" she said in a raspy voice.

Weisberger has asked the Korean War Veterans, Nature Coast Chapter 174, to raise the flag for the program opener.

"A lot of young people don't know about World War II or Korea. I guess it's a dirty word these days when you go to war. So, I decided to do this. Nobody loves war," she said. "I thought it was time we honored our veterans . . . veterans in general."

The program will open with music of the 1940s and Weisberger's recounting of those Hollywood and Broadway stars who left lucrative careers to serve in World War II _ she tapped her considerable first-hand World War II memories, her military library and the Internet to ensure that her facts for the program are accurate.

Guest speakers _ she doesn't want to name names as perhaps some won't be able to attend _ are expected to recount their experiences.

Weisberger herself will provide an oral, sort of kitchen table socioeconomic history, recalling when a loaf of bread sold in the 1940s for 17 cents, and the time when she and her husband danced at the New Jersey Meadowlands to the Big Band music of Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.

After an intermission, during which the audience will be entertained with music from the 1950s, veterans will speak about serving in Korea.

Lastly, stories from the Vietnam War will be recounted by those who endured it and by Weisberger, whose son, Sandy, served there but, for years, was silent about the experience. One day, he asked if he could borrow the family car to "visit friends in Washington," she recalls.

"I didn't know you had friends in Washington," she told him.

"I do, but they're on the Wall," he replied, referring to the Vietnam Memorial, which has the engraved names of the 56,000 Americans killed in Vietnam.

Following that visit, Sandy "opened up" about his war experience and helped his mother write that portion of her veteran's commemoration.

World War II, Korean and Vietnam war memorabilia, borrowed from local residents who served, will be on display, Weisberger said.

Weisberger's production has been in the works for several months, but she won't know how long the show will be until a neighbor types up the entire script.

While the program is billed as a tribute to all veterans, Weisberger also wants to honor her late husband, William. Initially rejected by the draft board, he was accepted as a volunteer soldier and served the China-Burma-India theater in World War II. After 3{ years, he returned home with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

If you go

Tickets for the $3.50 program with dessert and coffee are available today by calling Shirley Weisberger at 596-9705 or co-chairwoman Pat Arbuckle at 597-2485. Tickets will not be available at the door.