Groups raising funds to send vet to unit reunion
Local veterans’ groups are raising funds to send one of their members to a reunion with his old unit, according to Leroy Wegenast, chairman of the All Vets Club Board of Directors.
Arrangements are being made to send Ernest Hubacker, 98, to the reunion of Merrill’s Marauders and the Mars Task Force in Milwaukee at the end of August. Hubacker will turn 99 about six weeks after he returns from the reunion.
“I want to make it clear,” Hubacker said. “I was in the Mars Task Force that came after Merrill’s Marauders. Compared to Merrill’s Marauders, what I did with the Mars Task Force was a picnic.”
Both units served in Burma in southeast Asia during World War II.
“The men in the marauders were all volunteers for a dangerous and hazardous task,” Hubacker said. “They went through the jungle during the rainy season to find the Japanese. The Mars Task Force men were just designated to go.”
The Mars Task Force spent the dry season at higher elevations in Burma. He describes his time there as “Indian summer every day.”
Hubacker’s duty with the Mars Task Force included time in the hills above the Burma Road. He and other members of the unit would call in artillery if Japanese vehicles attempted to use the road. They were also the targets of Japanese artillery.
“One day, not much was happening, so five of our group went down to a creek,” he said. “I stayed back because I was preoccupied with a stove I was making out of some mortar shell crates. A whiz-bang came in down at the creek, and one was killed and one was wounded. I could have been killed, but it was just dumb luck I wasn’t down there.”
Hubacker still remains in contact with a couple of his fellow veterans of the Mars Task Force. He doesn’t know if they will attend the reunion.
“They may or may not make the reunion,” he said. “After all, we’re all at least in our 80s.”
The last reunion, held in 2012, saw 18 attendees out of the 6,000 men who served in the two units. The reunions are now organized and sponsored by an organization of the descendants of the men who fought in the units. They invite the veterans as honored guests.
“I just want to go,” Hubacker said. “There is sort of a mystic bond of sharing battlefield dangers that makes me want to be there.”
Wegenast said the All Vets Club and other veterans’ groups are attempting to raise about $1,700 to help cover expenses for Hubacker and a family member to attend the reunion. The organization has raised about $400 so far and a box for donations has been placed in the All Vets Club.
“We want to fly him to the Milwaukee convention and send a person or two with to aid him,” Wegenast said. “Everybody knows who he is, and he remains as sharp as a tack. He is a community treasure and certainly the community’s oldest active veteran.”
Along with the reunion, Hubacker is also looking forward to his 100th birthday, which is now 458 days away. While he credits “dumb luck” to surviving the war, he credits some of his personal habits for his longevity.
“I never smoked, and I stayed sober about 99 percent of the time,” he said.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org