American casualties in WWII topped more than 400,000. And while WWII is often remembered for its large number of casualties—among other horrors—for one man, it was a time that he looks back on and smiles.
James Dolan, a 89-year-old WWII veteran, was awarded with the Gloucester County Military Service Medal by Lt. Eric Shaw for his service in the 11th Airborne Division of the U.S. Army during a Friday afternoon at Woodbury Mews, Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice.
Dolan served between 1943 and 1946 as a radio repairman, a rifle sharpshooter and paratrooper.
“I remember saying to myself, ‘How the hell did you get yourself into this?’” said Dolan, recalling the first time he jumped out of a plane.
Sgt. Gabriel Corti interviewed Dolan the day before, so that his recollections of WWII could go on to join others at the Library of Congress.
Dolan—who will turn 90 on Oct. 17—feels honored to be part of such a commemoration and to have his experiences on tape. He said he had no problems telling on his experiences, and that it was only a joy to relive them all.
Dolan’s social worker, Karen Emerle, said from very early on she could see that he came to life whenever he talked about serving in the war. She then contacted the county to see if there was a way to recognize Dolan for his service. In addition, Emerle also reached out to the Library of Congress since she knew they were working on a project to honor veterans.
“It was a team effort,” said Emerle of the the county's involvement. “They were really accommodating.”
Director of Veteran Affairs Duane Sarmiento spoke about Dolan’s service, calling his “the greatest generation ever” for its role in protecting the nation.
Dolan's daughter Sharon Tombleson works at Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice. She said after her mother passed away in December, the only thing that seems to invigorate her father is when he is busy reminiscing about the time he spent in the eastern Pacific. Tombleson maintains that even though her father only served for a few years, it remained a large part of his life.
Dolan was part of the Philippines Liberation, and recalled in his interview learning about the bombing of Hiroshima a day before through radio chatter.
“It’s an extremely touching honor,” said Tombleson of her father's new medal.
In addition to being a hero, Dolan is also a cancer survivor. After learning he had Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, doctors gave him six months to live—that was 15 years ago.