They didn’t know each other until they moved into Riverside East Retirement Community in Bothell, but their stories sound like they’ve known each other a lifetime.

“War called. I went to war,” JJ Smith remembered.

Smith, 91, was an Army Air Corps Pilot during WWII.

“I was 20-years-old,” he said. “I did fly 156 combat missions.”

He still remembers the second he’s amazed he survived.

“Right about there,” he said, pointing to his right chin. “And it gave a pretty big wallop because I was doing about 450 mph.”

Hit by enemy air strike, Smith healed and continued to fly many more missions. It’s a courage and humility only his neighbors really know.

“Sometimes we’d keep our fingers crossed if we were going to make it or not,” Norman Tiegen said.

Smith, Tiegan and other veterans at Riverside East talk every so often about those days so long ago. Days of war they wish didn’t look so much like today.

“Lots of women, in barracks just like the guys,” June Lasse said.

Lasse served in the Air Force from 1952 to 1954. She is grateful for the “thank you” messages she receives on Veterans Day.

But more than “thank you”, they hope the rest of us will listen to their stories.

“So it won’t happen again, but it keeps happening,” Smith said.