GILFORD — World War II veteran Ray Doucet, formerly of Hudson, told students at Gilford High School Tuesday morning that he joined the military service in 1942 when he was only 15 and was faced with the choice of joining up or going to jail.
''I was living in Arizona then and I got in a fight. The police told me that if I joined the service I wouldn't end up in jail. So I told my mother that from now on I was 18 years old and signed up,'' said Doucet, who says he couldn't qualify for the Army because he was color blind, but passed the Air Force physical.
''By the time I was 16, I was in North Africa with the 15th Air Force in the Signal Corps. We were sending up A-38s to bomb Rommell's North Africa Corps out in the desert,'' says Doucet. (The A-38 was an earlier version of what would become the famous P-51 Mustang.)
Doucet said that he later went on to serve in Italy and that one of the highlights of his time in the service was getting to see the Vatican while in Rome.
''It was an experience I would never have had any other way,'' said Doucet of his military service which covered a span of five years.
Doucet was one of a half dozen residents of the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton who attended a special program at the school which was hosted by the Gilford High School Student Council and attended by high school history students.
''It was really interesting to hear the veterans describe what their lives were like while serving,'' said Student Council President Lindsey Corsack, who moved between the guests asking questions which they answered over a portable microphone.
Marjorie Rosenqvist, originally from Wisconsin, said that she recalled living in a Florida barracks while in the Army in unbearably hot weather and that both officers and enlisted men had to do KP (kitchen patrol).
''There was a fantastic PX there where you could buy just about anything you wanted,'' she recalled.
Barbara Fay, who spent most of her life in Florida before moving to New Hampshire earlier this year, recalled that she used to live in her own trailer while on base but always had to report to general quarters both morning and night for roll call.
''The service was nice. It worked out well for me,'' said Fay.
Ray Barcomb of Goffstown, who served in Vietnam, said that his most vivid memory of war was the loss of one of his best friends on Christmas Eve, 1968, shortly after his unit arrived in the country.
''He was big guy, 6'6'' ,who weighed 250 pounds and we played tackle football a lot. I still miss him,''
said Barcomb, who was a generator mechanic.
''It was 130 degrees in the shade in Vietnam, so bad that we'd do anything to cool off. I found an air conditioner unit and fixed it up so that I could turn it on whenever I needed to sleep. A lot of other guys wanted to use it but I told them 'I found it and hooked it up and it's mine,' '' said Barcomb.
Francis Gorski of Manchester served on Okinawa during World War II. ''It was the last big battle of the war. It took all the different armed forces working together to win it,'' said Gorski, who recalled that he was still on Okinawa when the two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bringing the war to an end.
He later got to see the bombed cities and said the sights that he saw were too ugly to describe.
John Noonan of Manchester served in the Navy during World War II and said that he recalls his ship tracking down a Japanese submarine trying to make its way into Pearl Harbor just before Japanese airplanes attacked on December 7, 1941.
He later served in the attacks on the Solomon islands and New Guinea and recalls his ship being under attack by Japanese kamikaze aircraft during the later stages of the war.
''It wasn't a lot of fun in the Navy. It was war all the time,'' said Noonan.
Residents of the New Hampshire Veterans Home spoke with students at Gilford High School Tuesday morning about their military service. Shown seated at the table are Barbara Fay, Franicis Gorski, Ron Barcomb, John Noonan and Ray Doucet. Student council members and history class students spoke with the veterans with Student Council President Lindsey Corsack, standing beside Noonan as he speaks, asking a series of questions which the veterans answered. (Roger Amsden/for the Laconia Daily Sun)