Veterans try to preserve monument

Pete Tjovaras and the rest of the men he served with in World War II don't talk about the fighting much anymore. It has been 68 years since they were activated, enough time to put those memories to rest. Now, the remaining members of Battery A of the 214th Coast Artillery Anti Air-Craft Regiment would rather remember their mischief.

As Mr. Tjovaras, 89, ate barbecue last week with several of his buddies from the war, he couldn't help but laugh as he recalled how they had swiped some eggs from an Italian farmer. They were hungry and desperate, he said, and the farmer wasn't happy.

Food is easier to come by these days, but there are fewer and fewer of his friends to share it with. Like so many units that were tasked with holding back the wave of fascist aggression, Battery A is slowly fading into history. Just 13 of the original 210 remain. The oldest, 1st Sgt. Kasper Fulghurn, is 92; the youngest is 80.

It's a fact that's not lost on Mr. Tjovaras. He knows they don't have much time left together -- by some estimates 1,700 WWII vets die each day.

But before they're all gone Mr. Tjovaras wants to be sure the monument to their service, which stands on Greene Street not far from the Municipal Building, is in good hands.

"Maybe the young ones will be able to take care of it," said Mr. Tjovaras, referring to the children of the servicemen. "We just hope."

The stone monument lists the names of the men Mr. Tjovaras loosely calls his "brothers." He's quick to point out though that they are in many ways closer than kin. About 50 of them attended the Academy of Richmond County together, so when the National Guard unit was sent to Camp Stewart in 1940 to be trained on the new technology known as radar, it was like a class reunion.

"It's a feeling that's hard to describe," he said. "I would do anything I could to help them and I feel they would to the same. We would take a bullet for one another."

About the time they were anticipating discharge from their one year of service, Japanese bombers attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor and the country mobilized for war. The battery was sent to the California coast until 1943, when it was redeployed to North Africa and attached to Gen. George Patton's 3rd Corps.

The unit would go to be involved in six major battles in the Italian and North African campaigns and would receive six Bronze Battle Stars.

It's a legacy that they want to preserve.

"We worry about it every day," said Mr. Fulghurn, who looks surprisingly young for the oldest remaining member. "You don't know how long you'll be able to do these things."

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

HOW TO HELP

The remaining members of Augusta's 214th Coast Artillery Anti Air-Craft Regiment are trying to raise money to replace the flagpoles at their Greene Street monument. Contact Ann McFerrin, daughter of Sgt. Pete Tjovaras, if you would like to donate. Ms. McFerrin can be reached by e-mail at atmcferrin@yahoo.com.