Updated: 06/19/2014 10:43 PM
Created: 06/19/2014 5:16 PM WDIO.com
By: Laurie Stribling
A traditional beginning for a tradition decades in the making. A 21-gun salute started the 74th reunion for veterans who trained on the USS Paducah. It took place at Mr. D's Bar and Grill in West Duluth.
"It's our old shipmates," veteran Joseph Edward Jeanette said. "We were shipped out of Duluth in 1940 in November."
Jeanette is one of 10 officers left from the original 161 who served and trained on the USS Paducah. The Paducah was stationed in Duluth.
"We marched from the Armory on 13th Avenue East to the railroad station on a cold November 1940," veteran Steve Balach said. "The first unit nationwide that was called by President Roosevelt on active duty."
A year later, World War II began.
"Most all of our veterans, because of our training, got good jobs aboard ships going into the war zones," Balach said.
In the midst of it all, friendships were formed. Jeanette and Balach met in the naval reserve. They've made friendship a priority throughout the years.
"We have something to say to each other every time we get together," Balach said.
Balach calls himself the baby of the group at 90 years old.
"I celebrated my 17th birthday in Montreal going to the Saint Lawrence Seaway," Balach said.
While their stories are rich, these veterans won't always be around to tell them. They said they hope their message to future generations never dies.
"We were kind of unselfish," Balach said. "We all went and we served not 30 days or 60 days, but four years or five years most of that in combat areas."
"Pray for peace and hope we never have another war like World War II," Jeanette said.
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