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World War II Vets Tour Fort Stewart
Old and New Soldiers Share Stories, Laughs and Legacies
Max with Conway

Max Sabatina, 93, could not wait to see the barracks at Fort Stewart.

"When we was in, we slept outside," he said. "We had these little brown tents and sometimes we just slept on pine needles."

Byron Rogers, 81, had his sights set on the fort’s latest weaponry systems.

"We used the ‘Long Toms’," Rogers said. "Sometimes, we had to adjust, adjust and readjust to make sure we were hitting the right target."

On Friday, Sabatina and Rogers got to see exactly what their aged eyes had been looking for.

The men, along with five other World War II veterans from the 244th Field Artillery Battalion and their families, were given a bus tour of Fort Stewart during their unit’s 28th annual reunion.

"This is a big improvement. If we had had something like this, we’d have gotten to come home earlier," Rogers said after visiting one of the fort’s weapons simulators.

"Those are the barracks?" Sabatina asked a soldier. "They look like some fancy motel. We couldn’t dream of havin’ nothin’ like that when we was in."

Both Sabatina and Rogers served four years overseas as part of Gen. Patton’s Third Army.

Their unit, which was activated Aug. 8, 1942, was last stationed at Fort Gordon.

They fought five battles during World War II, including the blistering cold Battle of the Bulge in 1944.

"Ask him about the time when the food supply was cut off to Patton’s Army and he had to kill a cow," Rogers’ daughter, Gail Baxter, said. "It was really rough for them over there."

Sabatina, from Akron, Ohio, was 27 when he was drafted, Rogers, from Glennville, was 20.

"He crossed the Rhine River on his 21st birthday," Baxter said of her father.

After the war, both Rogers and Sabatina said they did not have the desire to return to active duty, but their memories and their bonds kept them connected to the service forever.

"For a lot of them, these guys are their family," said Sabatina’s daughter, Marie Varrecchia, who also serves as the reunion’s coordinator. "At this point in their lives, they are just happy to reminisce and share their stories again and again."

As they toured the fort, both Sabatina and Rogers shared a story or two with the young soldiers of the Alpha troop, 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, and 3rd ID, which sponsored the group for the day.

"It’s cool to compare the differences," Spc. Jeremy Custer said. "There’s a lot that we have now that they did not have, and we take a lot of things for granted. If it was not for them, we would not have come this far."

While Sabatina and Rogers admired the Army’s upgraded accomodations and technology, there was one thing they said remains the same with every war — the ultimate price paid for freedom.

"It’s really emotional … every one of them, what they meant, what they stood for, what they fought for," Rogers said as he used his cane and his wife’s arm to walk down the path of Fort Stewart’s Warriors Walk, a memorial honoring the 3rd ID soldiers lost during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I am really proud of them … I just wish they could all come home," he said.

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