While World War II veterans are part of a rapidly disappearing population left in the country, U.S. Navy veteran Stan Kalla will always remember his time serving in the war.
“I was very young,” he said. “I had some good and bad experiences, but it worked out. I think I was very fortunate, I never got caught in anything. I got out of there and never had any problems.”
In April, Kalla, 91, will head to the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization created to honor America’s veterans for their service and sacrifices. The program transports veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at memorials.
“There’s a lot of people ahead of me, more deserving to do that,” Kalla said. “I’ve been to Washington a few times and it’s nice.”
Moving to Pittsburgh after the war, Kalla stayed there with his mother and brothers before settling down.
After the war, Kalla also made sure to keep a few items of war memorabilia in his possession, including an opium pipe.
“Don’t ask me where I picked it up,” he joked.
Before retiring in Galveston, he had amassed an eclectic variety of jobs, including contractor work for parks throughout the United States, Kalla said.
Living through several decades and observing other wars, Kalla hopes leaders will get the country into fewer wars, he said.
“They do all kinds of things and before you know it, you’re in some kind of bad situation,” he said. “I hope we don’t have a lot of those things but that’s not the way it works. That’s your government.”
Wanting to stay informed on current affairs in the country, he still watches the news regularly, Kalla said.
“I want to see what’s going on,” he said. “If you don’t watch it, you can’t complain.”
Recent events, such as white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, Va., have been strange to behold, Kalla said.
“It just shows you that in any country, anywhere, you can have things that can take place,” he said. “You have those kinds of organizations around now and it happens in this world. If we’re lucky, we have people that are supposed to be taking care of this country. How you take care of it? I don’t know.”
Her father’s service in the war has always been a significant part of her family’s legacy, daughter Lynn Donovan said.
“They say it’s the greatest generation because those guys came back home to build this country,” she said. “He’s very humble about the whole experience. He doesn’t like to have a big deal made.”
Her father’s service is remarkable and his bravery still astounds her, Donovan said.
“I think my dad and his generation gave us humility,” she said. “We thought it was amazing that our dad, a Jewish boy, would sign up to fight the Nazis.”
Reflecting on his time in the war and his life choices, Kalla is at peace, he said.
“I’m happy that I’m around,” he said. “I’ve got no complaints. It’s been a trip.”