HARRISON, N.Y. - Though his wounds have had decades to heal since he was injured while fighting in the Korean War, Harrison veteran Ben DeFonce's mental scars still show as his eyes glance across a wall of photographs and memories.
With Wednesday's Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day approaching, DeFonce said he will observe the memory of those lost in the attacks in a personal reflective way.
"It's in all of our hearts," DeFonce said, referring to the tone of he and his fellow Harrison veterans. "We'll have our flags out, as we always do."
DeFonce said he still vividly remembers when he heard the news that Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. While sitting with his mother and father in White Plains, DeFonce said he heard on the radio that America had been attacked, resulting in his father being drafted into the United States Navy at 39 years old.
As he and his two brothers grew into their late teens, DeFonce said the attack on Pearl Harbor played a large role in motivating all the boys to join the military.
"We weren't thinking about school at that point," DeFonce said. "That was what I wanted. I needed to be there."
After joining the United States Marine Corps in 1949, DeFonce fought in the Korean War and received two Purple Heart honors after being seriously wounded three times. He said the graphic nature of warfare still stays with him, all these years later.
"I still get flashbacks and sleepless nights," DeFonce said. "It stays with you and you never forget. Thank God that I'm home today and happy to be alive."
But nonetheless, DeFonce said he has no regrets.
"It was the best outfit to wear to keep you alive," DeFonce said.
DeFonce lives in downtown Harrison and works closely with the local VFW Post 3047, planning parades and events for local veterans throughout the community. He now has two daughters and five grandchildren.
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