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War veteran recalls service in WWII

By Greg Gelpi

Thoughts of fighting in the Battle of the Bulge still bring tears to his eyes.William Dozier Barnette, an 88-year-old Riverdale resident, recalled fighting in the nation's biggest battle in World War II. About a million soldiers fought in the battle, which killed 19,000 Americans.

Barnette returned home after the war and married, but wasn't able to tell volunteer information about the war to his wife, Helen Barnette, she said.

When she found pictures and memorabilia from the war, she tried to talk to him, but the memories were too fresh and brought tears.

"He didn't ever talk about World War II," Helen Barnette said. "Sometimes he was very emotional, and that's why I didn't pursue it."

As America pauses to reflect on the nation's veterans, both those who have served and those who continue to serve, Helen Barnett pauses to finish a scrapbook of her husband's military career.

She began the task years ago, but couldn't finish because of the pain it brought her husband.

"After a while he would go to crying," Helen Barnette said.

Along with the dozens of pictures of the devastation from Europe, Dozier Barnette returned with a German Luger, a handgun he picked up from a dead German officer, and an unexploded mortar.

While serving more two years and five months overseas in the war, he worked as a construction foreman, overseeing the construction of roads and bridges, and deactivated landmines and explosives as part of the Army's 360th Engineers.

He also has a collection of invasion and money currency from several countries.

Drafted into service, he reported to Fort McPherson, received training and was rushed overseas. He landed in France four days after D-Day, the day the Allies invaded Europe.

"I left here, and they carried me straight through," Dozier Barnette said.

Despite the death he witnessed, the toughest part of the war was watching older Europeans carting around all of their belongings in an attempt to avoid the fighting, Dozier Barnette said.

For his service, he received a Good Conduct Medal and a World War II Victory Medal.

Military service is nothing new to the Barnettes. Dozier Barnette's older brother Troy DeWitt Barnette died while fighting in France during World War I. His adopted son William Robert Barnette was a helicopter and plane pilot in the Army, Helen Barnette said.

Since the American Revolution, more than 48 million Americans have served in the military. About 753,000 of those veterans are from Georgia with about 23,500 coming from Clayton County.