Veterans share tales with children at library
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November 10, 2013
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Luke Grodson, 6, of Franklin Township listens during the program.

ZELIENOPLE — Two veterans shared stories of their service in the military with children at the Zelienople Public Library Wednesday in the first of series of new children's programming on “Wacky Wednesdays.”

The program, held on the first and third Wednesday every month in the children's library, is open to children from first grade and up.

Staci Burr, the library's new children services coordinator, explained she chose to bring in veterans to kick off the program because Veterans Day is on Monday.

Longtime Evans City residents Phil Hirschy and Dean McMillen came out to the library to share their stories and spend time with the children.

Following the program, the children made thank you cards that will be given to veterans. Burr said she will likely distribute the cards at retirement communities.

McMillen, the commander of the Evans City American Legion and current Butler County Veteran of the Year, spoke to the children about life in boot camp.

He served in 1951 during the Korean War on the USS Orion, a submarine tender ship. He later was a machinist and yeoman before his discharge.

The children gathered on the carpet to listen to their experiences.

“I had a wonderful time in the service,” said McMillen, who was in a U.S Navy uniform. Although it was not original issue, he did bring his original 1950s white uniform.

He joked with the children he put it on a couple of weeks ago, and told his wife to get the scissors, because he didn't think he could get out of it again.

He told the children of the strict regimen of staying in a barracks with 40 men, getting up early to get to the wash room and then making the bed.

He also showed the children the first money he made for two weeks in 1951, a total of $2.50. He still has the original $2 bill, which he passed around.

Hirschy, a World War II U.S. Army veteran, talked about his service as a Jeep driver, whose job it was to drive dinner to the troops on the front lines in Germany near the Rhine River.

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Phil Hirschy, left, and Dean McMillen, both veterans, share stories of their military service Wednesday with children at the Zelienople Public Library.

He joined the military in 1942 deciding to join his college buddies, who were all going to war.

“The winter of 1943 in Germany was the coldest I've ever been in my life,” recalled Hirschy.

He showed pictures of his Jeep that he was driving that hit a mine in the road and was destroyed. Hirschy was injured by an artillery blast that hit him in the back.

He spent six weeks on a hospital ship in England, before he sailed into Boston Harbor and was moved to a military hospital near Cleveland for further treatment. He was medically discharged from service following his recovery.

He later enrolled at Geneva College, where he earned a degree.

He returned to Evans City after he recovered from his war wounds and became a longtime school teacher for Evans City High School and later the Seneca Valley School District..

His love was flying, and in 1945 he was able to obtain his flying license.

Hirschy started the aviation program at the school that remains to this day.

Following the program, McMillen handed out small American flags to all the children.

The next Wacky Wednesday event will be in two weeks when children will have an opportunity to make yarn Angry Birds.

Upcoming programs will feature holiday and Christmas themes, said Burr. The schedule will be posted on the library's website at