‘The Witmer Boys’ honored for Army service
Flat packages wrapped in red tissue paper and tied with patriotic ribbons were presented to five Witmer brothers and the widow of a sixth after they lined up from oldest to youngest during a family reunion earlier this month at the Shady Grove Community Center.
There were misty eyes and lots of smiles as the gifts were opened to reveal images of their younger selves in their Army uniforms on a gallery wrap canvas print bearing the words “BROTHERS BY BLOOD AND SERVICE. The Witmer Boys.”
The reunion was held June 11 — 70 years to the day from when the eldest, Tim, now 87, was sworn in. He would be followed into the Army by Leonard, Bud, Bob, Glen and Henry. The family of Clarence Sr. and Mary (Lindsay) Witmer of Greencastle also includes Richard, who wanted to serve, but could not and supported his brothers from home, and sisters Joan Young and Mary Gsell.
Lois Sensenig’s father, Leonard Witmer Sr., was one of the sextet. He passed away two years ago and his print was accepted by her mother, Kathleen Witmer.
Sensenig wanted to create a surprise for her father’s family reunion, which drew about 120 relatives, and got together with her cousins to collect photos and information.
“It’s pretty unique,” she said of six brothers all serving in the Army.
Sensenig and her husband, Jay, are co-owners of Fastsigns of Greencastle. She went to graphic designer Shawn Myers and said, “Make me something wonderful.”
The result is a collage of the young men, “BROTHERS BY BLOOD AND SERVICE.”
In the Army
Clarence “Tim” Witmer Jr., 87, sergeant first class, enlisted in 1947 and served until 1953. Served in Japan, Korea and Germany.
Leonard Witmer Sr., died in 2015 at age 82, corporal, enlisted in 1951 and served for three years. In basic training he jumped off a truck and broke his foot. While recovering, the rest of his unit was sent to Korea. Most of his unit did not make it home. He later served in Japan.
Lowell “Bud” Witmer, 80, enlisted right after graduation in 1954. Served three years. Came home and wanted to marry his sweetheart, Clara Myers, but found out he wasn’t old enough to get married without his mother’s signature. He found this amusing since he had been old enough to serve for three years.
Robert “Bob” Witmer Sr., 77, originally enlisted in the Army Reserves on Jan. 18, 1957, and then enlisted in active duty Army on March 12, 1958. He was a specialist E-4. His discharge date was Jan. 16, 1963. He was a photographer for the Army doing aerial photos, hanging from planes to take pictures. He also photographed Dwight Eisenhower when he was president. He still has all his pay stubs. He started out making $72 a month. He says “the experience was well worthwhile and I never regretted any of it. Once you miss an opportunity like that, you never get another chance.”
Glen A. Witmer, 75, enlisted at age 17 in July 1959 and served until July 1962. Served 2 ½ years with the 4th USASA (Signal Corps) overseas at Asmara Eritrea (Ethiopia) North Africa. Received an honorable discharge with rank of sergeant. One of his most memorable moments was meeting Emperor Haile Selassie while stationed in Africa.
Henry L. Witmer, 71, made the Army a career, serving from July 1964 to May 1968 and September 1969 to July 1987, retiring after 21 years and six months of service. Served overseas at Okinawa, Thailand, Vietnam, Republic of China and Germany, with numerous stateside assignments. He started out in the signal corps, did a tour of duty as a drill sergeant and later switched over to aviation as a helicopter instructor pilot. He retired from Army with rank of chief warrant officer.