Martin Heering, one of only a few World War II veterans left standing with Waverly American Legion Post 176, had one of the jobs in World War II that’s tough to discuss.
He not only fought the Nazis and Axis powers but received a thank-you as the first generation to attend school on the GI Bill.
Heering, 96, a native of Port Huron, Michigan, joined the U.S. Air Force in December 1942, at age 19.
“Everybody was joining World War II at that time,” Heering said. “Everybody wanted to fight. We were attacked.”
After training, he was shipped overseas in August 1944, and was en route when he turned 21 on Aug. 27.
He served as a gunner and bomber in the 409th Bomb Group, 643rd Squadron and traversed Europe including Ardennes, Belgium, which was part of the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 to January 1945, a historic turning point against the Nazi forces. The victories in Ardennes in December 1944 to Alsace, France, in January 1945, set the stage for Germany’s rapid collapse.
His job was targeting communications, bridges and railroad tracks and junctions “at cities mostly.”
There were other targets, too.
“Say there was a mass of troops in the forest, we would use fragmentation bombs and bomb the area,” Heering said.
“It’s easier to say you bombed structures.”
Thirty-four months after he began, Heering was out.
Based on the points system, he amassed enough points to leave and was ferrying home from August to September 1945 when he turned 22.
The newly-signed GI Bill of Rights allowed Heering to study agriculture in a two-year program at Michigan State, where he met Dorothy Green. They married in 1948.
In 1949, Heering went to work in sales for Oliver Farm Equipment Co. in Monticello, Indiana, and owned a hardware store in Winamac, Indiana, from 1953-1966. He joined the American Legion in Winamac in 1954. A job with Acco Seed in 1966 soon brought the Heerings and their two boys, John and Don, to Waverly, Iowa, in 1969.
During the move, Heering also transferred his American Legion membership. He has served as treasurer for several years and in the color guard. He appreciates the Legion’s role in recognizing and supporting other veterans, particularly performing military funeral honors such as gun salutes, marching in the Fourth of July parade, and fundraising for big projects like the 2016-completed Waverly Area Veterans Post.
In addition to the Legion, he has also served the community through the Kiwanis Club.
Recognizing veterans is so important, Heering said, “because if it wasn’t for them, it might be a different country… The guy we were fighting wanted to conquer the world.”
Dorothy belonged to the Legion Auxiliary all the time Martin was in the Legion. She taught elementary school for more than 25 years, including 23 at Waverly Shell-Rock teaching third grade and reading. They both live in town at the Bartels Retirement Community.
Heering doesn’t think the culture of military service has changed, but worries that “the country’s culture has changed.”
“A lot of good guys here in town,” Heering said.