Veterans Share Their War Stories - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

11/12/04

Veterans Share Their War Stories

In Savannah, close to 250 veterans and their spouses gathered for the Veterans Council of Chatham County's annual dinner last night. Veterans from as far away as Atlanta were having a great time renewing acquaintances and making new friends, and of course, talking about old times.

As the dining room slowly filled up Thursday night, veterans from all different wars got together to celebrate their own holiday.

As a corporal with the 16th Infantry Division, Dennis Mataxas earned five battle stars, beginning with Normandy and including the infamous Battle of the Bulge, where he had his most harrowing experiences. "A lot of hand-to-hand fighting in smaller towns. Lot of commotion, lot of firing. When you're an 18-year-old kid, you don't think about a lot of things like what's going to happen and so forth."

His most memorable story, though, is one that happened toward the end of the war, after the fighting. And it didn't help his record. "I did get in trouble. I lost my stripes."

Mataxas and his friend, Smitty, had a couple of girlfriends across the Russian line in Czechoslovakia. They borrowed an Army Jeep to go get them. "We had brought extra clothing, when we got there we dressed my wife and his wife--our wives-to-be--in Army uniforms and we put them in the back of the Jeep and we got through the checkpoint that way," said Mataxas.

Mataxas says there's no question: it was worth it. "Wonderful lady. She passed away some seven years ago. But we had a wonderful time together."

Mataxas and his wife were married for 52 years.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

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