BOSSIER CITY, La. -- As we prepare to celebrate Veterans Day, we'd like you to know about five brothers who all served in World War II. "The Fighting Stroziers" of Chatham, Louisiana all made it home from the war, though they were wounded. One also survived one of the worst atrocities of the war.
That was Alex Strozier. His sons and a grandson here in Shreveport-Bossier, who all followed into the military, reflect on the spirit of the Greatest Generation from their own family.
The youngest son, Chuck, held up a picture of his dad from the Bataan Death march. In the photo, Alex Strozier managed a grin for the Japanese propaganda photo. He wore a bandage from a blow to the head by one of his captors.
Alex Strozier was one of about 80,000 thousand starving and dehydrated American and Filipino prisoners of war who were forced to march up to 75 miles to their prison camp. Thousands of them would not survive -- mostly Filipinos.
Chuck said of that famous photo, "I've even seen back when I was in high school in history books."
But Chuck and his brothers never realized that was their dad until decades later. The grin should've been a giveaway.
"That was one of the reasons the Japanese hated him. He smiled so much," Chuck said.
And he adds that if the Japanese knew, they also would've hated his dad even more for something else he did. At his prison camps, he hid his rations of rice for prisoners who were in worse shape.
"He made sure they were fed, at least to carry them through for the days they were there. He was starving, too. They called him The Mule because he just seemed to get up and go right on. It's not that he didn't suffer. He did suffer. But he cared a lot about his comrades," Chuck says of his father.
Alex Strozier would earn the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver and Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts -- and of course the POW Medal. Chuck says his dad endured daily torture -- from one guard especially in Japan.
But after the U-S dropped the atomic bombs and Japan surrendered, Alex Strozier got deadly payback with that guard, who hung around the liberated camp for too long.
"Dad caught him and dragged him over to an outdoor latrine that the men defecated in and drowned him," Chuck explained.
The Strozier brothers say their dad was part of an Army Air Corp unit that was forced into infantry duty, with few weapons and ammo. Another son, Jim, remembers his dad telling the story of his capture.
He said, 'Well, son, we were sleeping. And about daybreak I felt something poking me in the side.' And he said, 'I opened my eyes,' and he says, 'A little Japanese soldier was standing there. And he said, 'His rifle was longer than he was tall. But he had a gun and I didn't,'" Jim related.
He says his father and uncles didn't talk much about the war. They know that Hardy was a tank driver who arrived in France on D-day Plus 3, and fought on through the Battle of the Bulge, earning a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Another uncle, James, earned those same medals in the first U.S. offensive against Japan at Guadalcanal. The third uncle, Mike, earned a Purple Heart in the Pacific.
Less is known about the last of the fighting Stroziers, C. E., who is thought to have suffered greatly with what we now know as PTSD.
"They saw and experienced some horrific things," Jim says. "They had friends die in combat."
Alex Strozier's son, Teddy, was in Air Force Security Forces, including two tours in the Vietnam War.
"When I was in Vietnam, I'd get down, and I'd get to thinking about my dad, what he went through. And then I'd get say I shouldn't feel this way because my dad went through a lot more than what I did," Teddy says.
Teddy's son David also went into the Air Force, and survived the terrorist bombing of the Kohbar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, as the US enforced no fly zones over Iraq.
"I saw the flash and felt the blast," David recalled.
Still, he says, "What I went through, I don't think it compares to what my grandfather and his brothers went through during that time for our nation."
Chuck held up his dad's Bataan Death March photo again and said, "When I see this picture right here with Dad, and knowing that he could lose his life, and have a grin on his face, tells me that that generation had the fortitude to carry themselves day to day and make it still with a smile on their face. It's something we could learn from today."
One of David Strozier's sons is in the Air Force. That's four generations of Stroziers serving our country.