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D-Day Veteran Remembers; Says Force Is Necessary

WORLD War II veteran Heber Hobday contemplates the question at his soggy outdoor workbench, where six inches of rain have fallen in five days. Finally: ``I think Bush is doing the right thing,'' sending US troops to the Middle East. ``There's a lot of them for and a lot against,'' adds his perky wife, Rella, holding a peach basket half-filled with peppers, cauliflower, and yellow gourds. ``But I think he's doing the right thing, too.'' Wrung out, her sopping apron, slacks, and sneakers would fill a five-gallon jug.

Neither Hobday welcomes the prospect of fighting: Both know the horrors of war.

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``We had a man here last week, he was a prisoner two and a half years in Vietnam,'' says Rella. ``What they done to that poor boy was awful.''

The most searing portion of Hobday's three years in World War II: ``D-Day in Normandy.'' He won't elaborate: The intervening 46 years have not dulled the horrors. When he tries to talk about that day, when bodies carpeted coastal beaches as the Allies shot their way into German-occupied France, he still finds himself surrendering to tears. He has learned instead to clam up.

This is a man of toughness and courage. When he was a school maintenance chief, he and half a dozen bus drivers built a two-story school in their spare time one year in the 1970s. Not even a broken back kept him from completing it on time: He commuted to work prone and directed construction from a wheelchair.

The strife of World War II made the peace of West Virginia countryside incomparably sweet to Mr. Hobday. ``People say: `Aren't you bored?' We're not,'' he assures them. ``Besides, we have our animals,'' including three geese and 17 ducks on the indolent Cacapon River at the edge of the yard. ``They follow Rella around like dogs,'' he says with a chuckle.

Tomorrow is his 78th birthday: ``I'm taking him out to dinner,'' Rella offers. Where are they going? Fifteen miles away to one of Hancock's best-known restaurants, Hobday says, eyes brightening: ``Up to the Park'n'Dine.''

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