Berks remembers Pearl Harbor, veterans on 76th anniversary

WYOMISSING, Pa. - Benjamin Cimochowski is 97 years old, and even though he fought in World War II so long ago, he's still trying to forget the horrors of war.

"Horrible. I try to forget everything that I did, and that's hard to do, I guess," he said.

In 1942, soon after the December 7 attack on Pear Harbor, Cimochowski, a Pennsylvania native, was a 22-year-old husband and father. Like so many others, he received his draft letter from President Franklin Roosevelt, telling him America needed him.

"How can you feel? I wasn't the only guy, just one out of hundreds, so I figured you gotta go. You gotta go," said Cimochowski.

After serving two years, he returned home and resumed working as a carpenter, and curious questions started coming from all directions. He recalled the most common question.

"That's the first thing they ask you when you get home. 'How many Nazis did you kill?' And what are you gonna tell them? I would say none, and that would shut them up," Cimochowski said.

As the years go by, we lose more and more of the brave men and women who served during World War II. That's why state Rep. Mark Gillen, the president of the Berks County Military History Museum, organized a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day dinner at the Wyomissing Restaurant and Bakery.

"It's never been more important than now, as that Greatest Generation steps off the scene, to preserve those stories and artifacts," Gillen said.

Gillen's father fought in World War II, and his mother was a Rosie the Riveter, and in Berks County, the veteran population is strong. Even now, Gillen is amazed at what people like Cimochowski gave for America.

"For those men and women on the front lines fighting, I'm willing to lay down my life for something sacred called freedom," said Gillen.

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