Local WWII vet recalls time in service

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SCHENECTADY, N.Y. – More than 50 local World War II veterans will head to Washington, D.C. Saturday on an honor flight while one local vet recalls his time in the service.

The honor flight is a time for WWII veterans to see the World War II Memorial dedicated to their service. A Schenectady County man will be making the trip Saturday, and his years in the service were some of the most unforgettable.

“I just fell into it and took it as it come,” Eugene Brunelle said.

The 100-year-old man was handpicked for the Special Service Engineer Unit that landed on Normandy ten days after the D-Day invasion.

“Eisenhower was the one who told us what to do, when to do it and what,” Brunelle explained.

His unit’s mission was to repair the destruction left behind after the invasion, to clear the way for re-enforcements and to keep supply lines open.

But by the Battle of the Bulge, Brunelle’s unit was the one held in the reserve.

“There was only 50 miles between us and where the battle was, and for two weeks we went to bed with just our boots off,” he recalled.

Brunelle was spared in combat but knows all too well the sacrifice and the price paid to preserve freedom.

“We landed at Omaha Beach and climbed up those cliffs like they did during the invasion, and the first thing I saw when I got to the top was the cemetery over there, and I’ll never forget seeing that,” he said.

After Germany surrendered, Brunelle headed to the Pacific Theatre, but the war ended after only a couple days out of Pearl Harbor. Brunelle returned to his job at General Electric a year later and started a family.

Brunelle said he’s excited about the trip to Washington, but it’s been a long time since he’s been on a plane.

A greeting ceremony for the veterans leaving on the honor flight will take place at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Albany International Airport.

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