STANWOOD — For most of Raymond Lund’s adult life, he didn’t talk about the war.
He didn’t want to relive it. The memories still are painful.
“I hate it,” the 95-year-old World War II veteran said.
About five years ago, Lund started to open up more to his family, son Dennis Lund said. They learned that there were many times during the bloody battles on European soil when he thought he’d never make it home.
Back in Stanwood, his mom prayed for him every night. His youngest sister could hear her, and when Raymond returned, she told him of their mother’s countless pleas to God and her unwavering faith that her sons would come back to her.
“I remember the night I came home,” he said. “I opened the door and said, ‘Hi Mom, I made it.’ She looked at me and said, ‘I knew you’d be back.’ ”
Raymond Lund was one of five brothers who served in the military. Three of them went overseas during the war. All made it home.
Lund grew up near Stanwood and graduated from Stanwood High School. He joined the Army in 1941 and became an aviation engineer with the Army Air Force in 1942. He served until 1946. In 1943, he went to Europe, first to England and later to France and Germany.
He was in Germany when he learned that the war was over. He doesn’t recall who told him or which city he was in, but he remembers the whooping and hollering as the news spread.
During his first year overseas, he watched German planes pass overhead on their way to London. The 922nd Aviation Engineer Regiment was hunkered down less than 10 miles from the city. From their foxholes, he and his comrades could see the big black crosses on the wings of the planes. They didn’t shoot because it would give away their position. It was hard to sit there without firing back against the bombers, Lund said.
“If you drew a straight line from Germany to London, we were right in the path,” he said. “We got bombed every night.”
The bombs exploded with deadly heat.
“I saw a lot of people get burned,” Lund said. “It was horrible. Just horrible.”
His duties included dealing with the devastation after the bombs. In the morning, scouts would find where the worst of the damage was, and he was one of the engineers who would head out to attempt repairs. After each long, brutal night, “we had to get the hose and get ready to go fill in the bomb craters,” he said.
The engineers also were charged with waterproofing equipment, mainly the boats that would be used to land in France. Lund was among the troops who landed on the beach in Normandy on D-Day. He still doesn’t talk much about that part of the war, though he’s told his son some of the stories. Soldiers vomited and collapsed on the boats, felled by the sights and smells of death.
For the rest of the war, Lund was in France, Belgium and Germany. The group spent a while in Frankfurt, then Paris. They were the first ones to venture into the famous French airport, Le Bourget, after the Allies reclaimed it. Axis soldiers left behind mines in the airfield.
Lund was discharged from the Army in 1946. He turned down the opportunity to stay. He’d had enough of war.
He came back to Stanwood, where his parents had homesteaded and raised 10 kids. His mother and father were Norwegian immigrants. A black and white photograph shows Raymond as a young child with his family, posed in front of a two-story house. Though the house no longer stands, the road is named after the Lund family, Dennis Lund said.
Raymond Lund married Aileen Pryor, who grew up near Silvana. They’d known each other since they were kids. They were married 65 years and had two sons. She died last year.
The family lived in Warm Beach for a while. Lund drove the school bus from Kayak Point to Stanwood and worked at a local hardware store. In 1971, the Lunds moved to Hawaii, where Raymond managed a resort on Maui for about 20 years before retiring. They returned to Stanwood around 1990.
There’s a photo of Aileen on a table near the front door of Raymond’s home. He has a comfortable couch and a recliner to sit in while he reads the newspapers and magazines stacked neatly on a shiny wood coffee table.
Last week, his son brought out a framed newspaper clipping with five black and white photos of five brave young brothers, all in a row. Staff Sgt. Raymond Lund is in the first photograph, wearing his cap and uniform and offering a half smile for the camera. The others are Palmer, Selmer, Gordon and Eugene Lund. Raymond is the last surviving brother.
His mom may have known he was coming home from the war, but Lund wasn’t always so sure. During the bombings and battles, he thought he would die in Europe.
“Don’t ask me how many times” he nearly died, Lund said. “I don’t know what to say.”