Perhaps Windell’s amiableness comes from his rural upbringing in Ripley, West Virginia. Think Mayberry. Front porch swings. Saturday mornings down at the barber shop. Sunday picnics after church. Places where good folk gather to be sociable and swap stories.
But after the Korean War, there are some stories Windell Boggess won’t share with anyone. There are some things he saw–and did–that are in the past he says. “I try to wipe those things out of my mind.”
While growing up, serving in the military was a Boggess family tradition. Only one of the seven Boggess brothers did not serve. Back then, Windell says, if you didn’t serve it was a “stain on your character.” So, “being a veteran is important to me. I felt it was my duty. It taught me how to do for myself.”
VFW Post 128 sits on Rochester’s Virginia Avenue, high above the Ohio River valley. It is a spacious location, with reception hall and meeting rooms. In addition to being the home to the Rochester VFW Ladies Auxiliary, the Post hosts Chapter 862 of Vietnam Veterans of America, the largest VVA chapter in Pennsylvania and second in the nation.
“We’re thankful that Post 128’s leadership recognizes the importance of preserving the stories of their members,” said Kevin Farkas, director of Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh. “They understand the historical significance of what their members experienced and the importance of giving each veteran a chance to tell his or her story in their own words so that future generations of Americans will better understand and appreciate their service.”
After being drafted into the Army during the Korean War, Windell Boggess thought it might be interesting to be a paratrooper. Not so much, he learned. So, the Army sent him to Korea anyway and he served on the front lines near the 38th Parallel. “I was a replacement for a replacement,” he says. “We lost a lot of guys. There was no sense in getting to know anyone very well.”
This interview is a production of the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative, in partnership with the Veterans Breakfast Club. It was recorded July 22, 2014 at VFW Post 128 in Rochester, Pennsylvania. Interviewer and audio: Kevin Farkas.
The Social Voice Project is dedicated to understanding the voices and stories of our lives–those first-hand, authentic accounts of lived experiences we call oral histories. Sharing these experiences reveals our social, economic, and political lives, and they help forge important understandings of public histories.
The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative is a veteran-run, award-winning 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our mission is to capture, preserve, and share the voices, images, and experiences of veterans of all eras and branches of service with a Western Pennsylvania connection.
The mission of the Veterans Breakfast Club is to create communities of listening around veterans and their stories to ensure that this living history will never be forgotten. We believe that through our work, people will be educated, healed, and inspired. The Veterans Breakfast Club is a non-religious, non-political 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.