In 1945, Jay Wenk was a shy boy full of patriotism fed by World War II movies. He signed up and was shipped off at age 18 to fight in Europe. "I remember riding the first time up to the front and hearing the guns and saying, `This is exciting!"' Six decades later, Wenk now fights to stop young people from doing what he did a lifetime ago. He and another World War II era veteran, Joan Keefe, have been arrested twice for distributing anti-enlistment fliers outside a military recruiting center in a mall. With a round of trespassing charges recently dismissed on technical grounds, they say they'll risk arrest again. At an age when many veterans fade away, he's 79 and she's 84, they promise to keep up their anti-Iraq war leafletting. "We're not cowards," Keefe said. "We're not afraid to stand up." Wenk, a longtime activist, started handing out fliers outside a recruiting center at an upstate New York mall in March.
By August, others joined him, including Keefe, another longtime political activist. Twice that month, Wenk and Keefe refused requests to leave the mall and were arrested on charges of trespassing, a violation that usually carries a fine. On Tuesday, a town justice granted their lawyer's motion to dismiss the violation because the complaint against them failed to state why they were asked to leave. They planned to return to the mall this weekend to press the issue again.
Wenk was an infantry soldier and fought in the latter stages of the Battle of the Bulge. His initial flush of combat excitement was tempered by getting shot at by Germans and contracting pleurisy, an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the lungs.
Keefe, meanwhile, signed up for the Women's Army Corps and did clerical duties for soldiers shipping out of California. Both later drifted into activism amid the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. Wenk even helped found Veterans for Peace in the early '60s. Still, neither expresses regret for their service. "I'm glad I did it," Keefe said of the Women's Army Corps. "It was the way I'd like to feel now about the country ... but I can't", reports the AP. N.U.
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