WWII, Desert Storm vets have yearly reunion in Huntsville

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - Every year a group of veterans have a reunion for the 109th Evacuation Hospital, one of the most decorated units that was decommissioned after World War II, brought back, then disbanded once again after Desert Storm.

This year, the occasion came to Huntsville, and two WWII vets were among the proud members of the unit.

"We were, I'll use the phrase 'thrown together,'" said Archilee W. Sapp, who drove trucks for the evacuation hospital during WWII.

"We were together 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," Sapp explained.

The 109th Evacuation Hospital ultimately decommissioned as an Army National Guard Unit, and they've held reunions since 1986, meeting in a different city every year.

"There's nothing like living through a war," said Howard Klitgaard, who worked as a medic with the evacuation hospital unit. "I think we're very proud of the 109 during the second World War."

They treated over 21,000 patients between D-Day and the end of the war, and earned dozens of awards.

"The 109th treated more patients than any other evacuation hospital in Europe," said Klitgaard proudly.

He also mentioned that they had a reputation of keeping soldiers alive, but they were so close to the front lines that they regularly heard machine guns and was, at one point, declared captured for three days.

Attending the reunion is a high priority for the two WWII vets in attendance, who say that catching up with each other has become as rewarding as the interaction with the younger veterans who made up the 109th Evacuation Hospital during Desert Storm.

"I've attended every reunion but two," said Sapp. "We became very close, closer than most families."

Two hundred eighty-nine people made up the unit during WWII, and today, Klitgaard says only 13 are still living.

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