"It was a Sunday morning," Don Lowman recalled of the Pearl Harbor attack, a day that would impact his life, like many other draftees' lives, forever.

"It was a Sunday morning," Don Lowman recalled of the Pearl Harbor attack, a day that would impact his life, like many other draftees' lives, forever.

"I was a young kid, about 16 or 17, working in a drug store in Leavenworth, Kansas. I was a soda jerk and delivery boy. I remember everybody getting excited about something. After some time, we all came to realize what had happened. The bombing frightened everybody. We were all afraid of World War II coming to America. I had no idea where Pearl Harbor was, but within a few years, I was there."

A member of the 129th Naval Construction Battalion, or "Seabees" as his battalion came to be known, Lowman was drafted and served in the Navy from June 1943 to June 1946. "I was just 19 years old when they drafted me. I had recently moved to La Junta to work on the railroad and before long they sent me to Camp Peary in Virginia," he recalled. "From there, they sent me to Davidsfield, Rhode Island and on Feb. 1, 1944, I boarded a ship that took me to the Atlantic, Caribbean, Panama Canal, and eventually stopped in Honolulu, which I called home for the next 13 months."

Arriving little more than two years following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lowman said the aftermath of the attack was a constant reminder as to why he was drafted. "The barracks were within one mile of the docks. You could always see the USS Arizona. It sat, like it still does, in shallow waters, those boys still in there. I went back about 10 years ago with my wife, and seeing that thing brought back those memories. They really did a great job cleaning everything up."

While in the Navy, Lowman says his battalion, along with three others were assigned to build two 6,700-foot runways, using coral from the ocean as fill dirt, and to construct sewer systems, housing and recreation facilities, where he did mainly electrical work for what is today Honolulu International Airport.

In April of 1945 his battalion set sail for the Philippines to the island of Samar, where their duties included building a hospital facility in preparation for an anticipated Japanese invasion.

"It never happened," said Lowman. "We were in the Philippines when the atomic bombs were dropped. We heard about it in the evening. We had all been to a movie. One of the officers got up to make the announcement and the movie was turned off. Before then, nobody even knew anything about an atomic bomb. It was an exciting thing. Guys were shooting off their rifles and the very next week, we were all turning in our rifles and heading home. I lost my rifle in the Philippines, but I didn't really care too much," Lowman joked. "I had slept with that thing for two years."

When he returned to the United States, discharged as an Electrician's Mate 3rd Class, Lowman said he intended to find work in Kansas City, however, "in 1946 you couldn't find a job," he recalled. "I decided to return to La Junta and claim my old job on the railroad. It was a good decision."

Having called La Junta home ever since, Lowman married his first wife, Lucille Mooneyham of Rocky Ford in 1947. Following her death in 1987, he married his second wife, Gracia, whom he has been married to for the past 29 years. He is the father of five children and has lived in Casa Del Sol Retirement Community for the past four years.

Dexter Hess also has memories of Pearl Harbor.

A fellow World War II veteran, Hess was drafted following the atomic bombing and served in the Air Force from 1946 to 1949.

"The actual war was over but they were still drafting," Hess said.

Born and raised in Rome, Georgia, Hess was deferred from the draft originally because he was enrolled in college courses. In 1946 however, he was drafted and sent to White Sands, New Mexico, where he served as a weather observer and radar and sonar operator.

"When we beat Germany, we captured their B-52 rockets and they were taken to New Mexico," Hess recalled. "The Germans were pounding England with those things, and it was from them that America was able to advance our technologies."

"We sent up weather balloons to get wind speed and direction. I did that for about two years before going back to college."

Hess earned a master's degree in zoology from Duke University and later earned a PhD in plant ecology from the University of Colorado.

"I always intended to go back to New Mexico," Hess said. "I ended up getting married and moving to La Junta to work at Otero Junior College, where they needed a weather guy. Twenty-five years later I retired and ended up doing work at Bent's Old Fort for about five years. I never made it back to New Mexico."

Of the initial Pearl Harbor attack, Hess said, "I remember it, but not as vividly as some people my age. I remember it being a bad day for America, just as I remembered the atomic bombing being a good day for America."

"These days I just try to go about my business," continued Hess, who moved to Evergreen Garden following his wife's death.

Hess is the father of three children, two of whom live out of state.