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WWII veterans bring history to life for eighth grade

"After a while we weren't getting much protein. I figured we better throw the iodine away and eat the bugs," he said laughing.

His laughter was brief and shortened by his stories of being under attack in Italy.

"I was inside a building in a town, and inside this building, the back had been blown off," Lukens said.

Between him and the closest building was a 10-foot wide cobblestone street and on the other side on top of the building was a German sniper. An open-air vehicle came through and there was a soldier with a 50 caliber gun and he started shooting at the building. Because of the material the structure was made from was soft, the bullets crumbled the corner of the building and the sniper fell 45 to 50 feet to the ground and died.

"I remember smiling at the machine gunner," Lukens said as though he were back there in time.

When it was announced the war had ended, Lukens and other soldiers were attacked by Italians, presumably fascists, while they were waiting at the train to begin their journey home. Lukens said he figured they could have gotten killed waiting to go home if it weren't for one soldier who was able to fight the Italians.

When it was about time for his talk to be over, Lukens told the students when he went into the military he weighed 168 pounds. By the time he came home, he was down to 134 pounds.

The talk took a toll on the veteran and he gave his apologies to the students, who were understanding as to the difficulty and courage it took for Lukens to share his story.

"I'm sorry I kind of broke up. It still gets to me," he said, adding he has lost more than 20 friends over the last few years, a handful of whom have passed away only recently.

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