Pasco WWII vet, 93, is one in a million
ZEPHYRHILLS - Newcomb Stevens is a member of a very select group. Of the 16 million veterans who served in World War II, only about 1.2 million remain, according to the Veterans Administration. Stevens is one of those veterans. Now 93, he lives in Spanish Trails Mobile Home Park in Zephyrhills with his wife of 60 years, Myrtle, who is 79. They celebrated their diamond jubilee anniversary June 27.Stevens served in the Army with a medical unit near Oxford, England. His unit received casualties from D-Day. "I was a medic. I was in England for two years or more. We went over before D-Day and set up field hospitals, getting ready for D-Day," he said. "They'd bring the patients in and we'd have to take care of them." Like a television M.A.S.H. unit, the medics' job was to stabilize the patients for travel to a medical unit where they could get further help, Stevens said. "They put me in charge of the linen and laundry," he said. They were busy day and night for awhile during the nightly bombing raids, he said. He shakes his head when asked what it was like. "I didn't care for it," he said quietly. Stevens must have had nerves of steel, however. His unit was being shelled regularly, but he learned to sleep through it. One morning, Stevens said he awoke to find that a shell exploded nearby and blew away the tent he was sleeping under. His buddies had moved elsewhere to sleep, but he was still in his cot the next morning. He chuckles when he talks about his experience. "I didn't wake up. The other guys sleeping with me did; they got up and left me there, you know. There was only one bomb that hit, but I guess it hit pretty close." Before joining the Army at 17, Stevens was the first fire chief in Portage, Maine, where his father owned a general store at Portage Lake. "I was voted in [during] a town election," he recalled. "Not too many wanted it; it was too much to take care of." He served for about a year before being drafted. He and his wife came from Arostook County in Maine; she grew up in Caribou. In 1953, they met for the first time at a dance in Connecticut where they both had gone to find work because jobs were scarce in their hometowns. They married the same year. The Stevens had five children: Michael, Linda, Alan, Todd and the youngest, Newcomb Jr. The four boys went into the Army. Alan retired after 33 years in the service. Michael, a helicopter pilot, survived being shot down outside Baghdad during Desert Storm while he was in the service. He now flies helicopters for a hospital in Orlando. Before coming to Florida, Stevens liked to spend his time woodworking. The walls and shelves are filled with his handiwork. Many of the wooden figures represent real people, others represent various occupations. He also made household items. "I made shelves, I made a lot of different items - trash containers and toilet paper holders." Much of his handiwork is still in use around the house. When the Stevens moved to Zephyrhills in 1995, he left his tools in Portage and dropped his hobby. The couple goes dancing a couple times a week, do jigsaw puzzles and like to travel. They visit Portage once a year to see old friends. Stevens was the first of 96 residents from his hometown to be drafted in World War II, Myrtle Stevens said. He is the only one left.