By NEESEY PAYNE
“I went in at the ripe old age of 17,” said Claude Newman who recounts his years as a combat engineer serving in World War II.
Newman, a Pulaski native, was drafted to serve in the army in 1945. When he learned the news he said his family was devastated. Newman explained going about one’s everyday routine and then learning you’ve been drafted into a war is a scary thing. But he knew that he had an obligation to serve his country and do what he had to do as a man of honor and integrity, so off to war he went. Newman served three years. In 1948, he returned home on a furlough and his life was changed forever. He met the love of his life, Rita.
Claude’s sister and Rita were shopping at the 5 and 10 store in town. Rita, who barely new Claude, asked him for money. “And she’s been asking me for money ever since,” said Claude jokingly.
The couple didn’t date very long. Claude said it felt like hours. All he knew was he liked what he saw in Rita and wanted to have her companionship the rest of his life.
“I thought she was the queen of Big Railroad,” said Claude.
“He was a very handsome young man,” said Rita. |
Within six months of meeting, Claude and Rita were engaged. On Dec. 3, 1949, at 3 p.m., two 21-year-olds young and in love got married in a parsonage by the Rev. Baker.
It wasn’t long after exchanging their vows that Claude was called to serve in Korea.
Rita said being far apart from each other was hard. “I was miserable,” she said. The couple would write to one another as often as they could.
“Getting a letter was just like a holiday,” said Claude.
In 1950, Claude returned home from Korea.
“I came in on a train at about 4 o’clock in the morning. I went over to a cafe, got me a piece of apple pie and a scoop of ice cream. I paid about 35 cents for it. I sat there and ate until it got daylight and walked 3 miles to Big Railroad where she (Rita) lived. I came to the door and her belly was sticking out,” said Claude.
He explained that he’s seen a lot of things that to this day will be etched in his memory forever, but that moment when he came home to find his wife pregnant he knew “everything was good.”
“It was always a surprise when he would come back home. It was so good to see him and know that he was still alive,” said Rita.
She explained that being an army wife had its ups and downs, but she worked to stay busy. “Keeping yourself busy was the best thing to do when they’re gone,” she said.
Looking back on his years as a soldier, Claude said it was interesting meeting people from across the country. However, no matter where they were from, at the end of the day they were all brothers serving the United States of America.
The couple said that wake up every day proud to be Americans.
After serving in Korea, Claude worked at Radford Arsenal from 1951-57. The couple then moved to Ohio where they lived there for 30 years. Claude worked for General Motors and Rita, All American Co. On Oct. 17, 1987, Claude and Rita retired and returned to their hometown. Claude belongs to five veterans organizations, Veterans of Foreign Wars (of which he is a past commander), Korean War Veterans Association, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, and UAW Veterans Committee at Volvo. The couple recently attended Claude’s 16th Korean War reunion in Lebanon, Tenn. “We had a good time,” said Rita.In December, Claude and Rita will celebrate 63 years of marriage. The couple adore each other and keep each other laughing from day to day. They say the secret to a long marriage is give and take and live each day like it’s your last. “We’ve had a good life,” said Claude.