SAINT MARIES, ID — Inside a home in St. Maries, Idaho live two brothers: Tommy and Pete Thomason. Both of them served during World War II.
Tommy, 96, is a U.S. Navy veteran. His younger brother is a U.S. Army veteran and is 92-years old.
Tommy was stationed aboard the U.S.S. Northampton in 1941. He and the rest of the sailors participated in 13 major engagements including the Doolittle Raid, Battle of Midway Island, and the Battle of Tassafaronga, following the surprise attack on Pearl Habor on December 7, 1941 by the Imperial Japanese Navy.
"We shed a lot of tears," Tommy explained.
Tommy had to grow up quickly When he enlisted, he was just a 17-year old from Gooding, Idaho who joined with his cousin in order to see the world. Now they were on the front lines of battle.
"I've always felt that if you have fear then you would do something that may be detrimental to your mission," he said.
Meanwhile, Pete wanted to follow in his brother's footsteps but he said the Navy was full. He was drafted into the Army and stationed in the Philippines.
"The first sight of any devastation of war was in Pearl Habor when we pulled in to refuel," he said.
It was February 1945. Pete was on a ship destined for the U.S. Army's harbor base in Manila.
He spent the next two years guarding the harbor during the liberation of the Philippines led by General Douglas MacArthur.
A few years ago, his son-in-law took him back to Manila. He stood in front of MacArthur's statue and gave it a salute. Then he revisted places he used to stand guard and noticed they had been converted to historical sites or museums, including the Malinta Tunnel on the Island of Corregidor.
"They had a big plaque on the wall telling about 21 Japanese [servicemen] that had come out of the tunnel," he said. "[They] didn't even know the war was over." During the war, Pete said he went through some of those tunnels.
When he was reading the plaque during his return visit to Corregidor, he introduced himself to some local Filipinos who were also reading about the history.
"Told them thatIi was in one of those tunnels just about a couple days before [the Japanese servicemen] came out ," he said. Pete did not expect the reaction he got.
"They gave me a big hug and took pictures and everything," he said. During that trip, he realized just how appreciated his and the U.S.Military services were to the Filipinos. People thanked him for helping liberate their country.
"Real unique. I loved it," he said.
It's the same feeling they both get when Americans go out of their way to thank them for their service.
"It feels good knowing that you still remember what we went through and appreciate it," the elder Thomason added.