Veteran of World War I AND WWII Celebrates 110th Birthday

This story caught my eye in the news this weekend: Veteran of World War I, II Celebrates 110th Birthday
 
I did a little more research and found the following article written three years ago when Mr. Rasch was 107.
 
 
“Unsung Hero” – WWI Vet, Andrew E. Rasch

The predominant themes to Andy Rasch’s long life are his service to his country, concern for others and his desire for independence. At age 107, he remarkably continues to maintain all three. 
       Andy and his sister were orphaned before the age of 5 and placed in an orphanage in the Midwest where they were abused and neglected, “horribly,” Andy recalls.  The memories of those years and of his mother’s tragic death in a train accident bring tears to his eyes.  At the age of 16, Andy ran away, promising his sister he would return for her as soon as he could.  Andy joined the Navy and  has  the  documentation 

Andy Rasch, 107, with medals, ribbons and other
memorabilia from his service years.

to prove it.  He served aboard the USS Oklahoma battleship during WWI, and he has an array of ribbons for bravery and a flag from that era.
       “They didn’t give medals – they gave ribbons,” he recalls.  He points out the heavy fabric of the flag and the predominant white stitching at the edges: “They don’t sew flags with this type of stitching anymore,” he explains. Andy’s story about his WWI service was broadcast by a local TV station in 2006. The station verified his service with the Veterans Administration. Andy continues, talking in more detail about how he went into a burning section of the ship and rescued four men: “I kept going back in and pulling them out,” he says, “there was fire all around.” 

 

USS Oklahoma

       After the war ended, Andy kept his promise to his sister. “She was outside in the yard and I motioned to her to come to the wrought iron fence.  I told her, ‘Come with me, Sister, we’ll be all right.’  She was so thin that she managed to squeeze through the bars of the fence.”  They remained very close even after she married at the age of 21. He keeps a photo of her nearby his favorite chair in the living room of the small apartment where he lives alone. 
       “You’ll be surprised when you see me,” Andy tells me  on  the  phone.  “I’m not a ‘little old man.'”   In  fact,

Andy is about 6 feet tall and weighs around 200 pounds he says.  He and a “lady friend,” who lives nearby and is in her 90s, enjoy going out for breakfast at the local IHOP and sometimes she cooks for him.  Other times, friends take him out for meals.  “I’m not much of a cook – never have been – but I can manage,” he assures me.  “I grew four inches and put on my natural weight, once I got out of that place [the orphanage] – they were starving us.  Even the Navy food tasted good to me,” he says ruefully.  “Other guys used to complain; I was grateful.” 
       Andy also served in WWII as an Army Reservist.  Throughout his life he has been involved in organizations helping children, and he continues to do so.  “His philanthropy is impressive,” friend Iness confirms.  “He really cares about the welfare of children who need assistance, no matter what their circumstances.”  The high rate of homeless children is one of his many concerns, and he donates to local organizations to try and make a difference.  “If you can make a difference in one child’s life, then you’ve accomplished something,” Andy believes. “When we grew up (referring to his sister), there wasn’t anyone to help us – we had to make it on our own.  I’m glad to see people caring about kids today.” 
       Over the years, Andy has collected newspaper articles of fellow WWI veterans, including obituaries.  “I used to keep in touch with a couple of guys in Wisconsin,” he says, “but they are gone now.”  He also has a recent article about Frank Buckles, 108, shown at the White House with President George W. Bush. [Mr. Buckles is recognized as the last surviving WWI veteran.]  “He may be the oldest WWI Vet,” Andy remarks, “but he’s not the last!”  Does he mind being left out?  “Not really. I know who I am and what I’ve done in my life,” he says philosophically.  “Except that he gets to be buried in Arlington [National] Cemetery.”

Article courtesy of the National Centenarian Awareness Project

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