Tribute: A veteran remembers
A VETERAN REMEMBERS Newton County resident Lonnie Alexander Sr. served in World War II, Company I 168th Division, 34th Infantry U.S. Army in Italy. He was 24-years-old when he was drafted. Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star.
By Penny Randall / staff writer
May 27, 2002
Almost 60 years have passed since Lonnie Alexander Sr. had to leave his wife and 18-month-old son, Lonnie Jr., to serve in World War II.
It was a little more than two years into the war, which began Dec. 7, 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when Alexander was drafted on April 30, 1944, at the age of 24.
The Newton County native said being drafted was hard to accept.
He underwent 17 weeks of basic training at Camp Blanding in Florida, then home for 10 days and finally to Ft. Meade, Maryland, where he boarded a ship bound for Italy.
When Alexander left his wife after those 10 days home, he remembers the last words he would speak to her for 21 months: "Bye, I'll come back."
A recipient of the Good Conduct Medal, Bronze Star and World War II Victory Medical, Alexander said the war on terrorism that the United States is now fighting is different than the war he fought half a century ago.
Alexander's three sons, Lonnie Jr., Dennis and Mike, all served in the National Guard.
He said even though he didn't volunteer for service he would still tell anyone interested in joining the military to go for it.
Alexander said it was the little things that kept troops from going crazy.
Food was scarce and the cold weather was even worse.
The word came
Alexander remembers the exact words his captain said "The war's over. You can go to town, but don't get drunk."
From that moment, it was eight months before he would step foot back in the United States.
Back at home
The ship ride home was pretty much the same as the one over just shorter Alexander said.
Pfc. Lonnie Alexander was officially discharged on Feb. 3, 1946.
He returned home to Newton and his wife, Mary, and a young family that would grow.
He joined his dad in business, operating a sawmill for 20 years before going into the carpentry business and building houses.
Retired now, but still very active, Alexander's carpentry work brings him joy. He enjoys spending time with his eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Alexander said he was one of the lucky ones. When asked how he made it through the war, he could not express his thoughts in words, he simply pointed to heaven.