WWII veterans bring history to life for eighth grade

Edwin Lukens sat in Jim Ryan's social studies classroom on June 17 with tears in his eyes and tried to compose himself before continuing his story.

"It still can come back to you," Lukens said. "You can't seem to get away from it at times."

He promised the eighth-graders he wouldn't get into too many gory battle details and talked about the food he and his fellow soldiers ate during World War II. Lukens spoke to the students as part of an event that brought history to life by bringing WWII veterans into the classrooms at Skaneateles Middle School.

After graduating from high school, Lukens, a Spafford resident, joined the military as many young men did at the time. When he enlisted, he was sent to Africa and then his tour of duty took him up through Italy.

As he and 80,000 other troops waited to board ships in New York Harbor, a submarine attacked the harbor.

"It's hard to believe," Lukens said. "Nobody got hit."

He told stories about his time in Algiers and how soldiers rode in the backs of trucks. During one convoy, tarps were put over the backs of the trucks to cover the troops while they were on the road. But it was raining and one truck began sliding off the road and rolled down the mountainside.

The men couldn't get out of the truck because of the tarp covering them and most of them died, Lukens said.

Throughout his time overseas, Lukens and others endured meals of hash stew, "bully" beef (corned beef), tea and bread. One day he saved the beef he had from breakfast for a snack later in the day, but while walking he found grapes growing on the vine and filled his helmet with them.

Lukens said the water the soldiers were drinking had a lot of algae and bugs in it so they used iodine to purify the water.

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