As a member of what President Rhodes once referred to as the Class of 1944 - Accelerated. I left Cornell. after a rather informal graduation, on October 24th of 1943. I had 30 days to visit with parents (in San Francisco), clean up odds and ends, and enjoy a few days and dates as a civilian before boarding the train to Chicago to report, as an apprentice seaman, V7, USNR. at the Notre Dame Midshipman School.
I was not to see Cornell again until the spring of 1965 when, shortly before retirement from the Navy, I visited the Finger Lakes District on a job-hunting trip from Southern California. I drove around the campus and the town and fell in love again with what I saw - the Hill, Cayuga and its valley, the Campus (somewhat augmented from its state in 1943). and the surrounding countryside. Being frugal and efficient I determined not to waste this stop-over in my job-hunting expedition, and called upon Deed Willers. then Cornell's Director of Personnel, who sent me to Julius Winehold (Director of Buildings and Properties) and John Burton (Vice President - Business). I left Ithaca with a job offer and the realization that to accept it. (the salary was the lowest of my four offers). I must persuade my wife, Barry, a lovely daughter of Alabama, that Cornell's (and Ithaca's) atmosphere, scenery, and intellectual attributes were far more significant than its six months of winter.
Suffice it to say that I was successful and although we left Cornell some years later, in search of greener professional fields. I never lost touch again.
Howie Evans wrote an article for the Cornel 1 Bulletin about the induction of '44's ROTC cadets into the regular army. He told how a group of us (Dick Hagy was the leader) would shoulder shovels and form our own work detail. However, instead of working we marched behind the firing range and spent the day playing cards, reading, or sunning on the bank of Lake Ontario. Unfortunately, we were caught and placed on a real work detail— shoveling coal from one pile to another.
Now fast forward about 10 months. After our induction period we returned to Comell awaiting assignment to OCS. After leaving Ithaca. we had another delay and ended up at CCNY in New York City. This was only a short period until there was room at an OCS class. We noticed that a group of ASTP (students in the army) would march out of the gates to attend classes at the college so - we just joined their ranks and marched out to enjoy the sights of New York.
Late one night we were sneaking back to the barracks through a hole in the fence when we were caught by the M.P.'s. The next morning we appeared before the commanding officer. When we walked into his office, he said to his Master Sergeant. "Aren't these the same men we had trouble with at Ft. Niagara?" He then placed us under barracks arrest and said we were not going to OCS but would end up as privates in the infantry. Again our luck held: when we returned to the barracks the trucks were loading up for OCS so we jumped in and went to OCS.
I arrived at Cornell by train a week after classes had started. My father had been recalled to active duty and we had to arrange for someone to care for my mother who was a semi-invalid.
On my arrival at about 2200 hours I called Coach James, as instructed, who picked me up at the station and deposited the body at McGraw Hall.
The following morning I was awakened to the sound of bells I have heard many times since in many parts of the world. Cornell bells, once heard are never forgotten. That afternoon I walked down to College Town and found a furnished room that would be home until the following summer.
The next year and a half was one of the most fantastic era's of my life. The 7th of December 1941 changed many lives at Cornell. I left at the end of the semester and on my return home to Brooklyn, New York, I enlisted in the Army Air Corp Cadet Program. During Basic School I unfortunately was involved in playing a game of follow the leader with fellow cadets and I was transferred out of the Cadet Program. Eventually, I was trained as a gunnery Instructor on B-24's and applied for OCS in the Infantry. Upon graduation I eventually ended up on the island of Luzon awaiting the final Invasion of Japan.
The final phase of the last five years of my life was President Truman's decision. Thank the Good Lord for dropping the Atomic Bomb on Japan. All of us that returned home knew our lives had been in His hands.
Two wars later in addition to playing the intelligence game in the Middle East I ended up operating Counter Terror Teams against the VC in Vietnam. On my third tour I had an incident that served the nerve in my right shoulder, broke my rib cage and punched a hole in my right lung. Like everything else in my life - being informed I would never use my right arm again was unacceptable. With the love of a really tough wife, who forced me to exercise my useless arm with the help of my good arm, twice a day I returned to worldwide duty and Vietnam for a final tour, ten months after being evacuated from Saigon in 1967.
On the 22nd of August 1978, 1 retired and started teaching the following Monday morning. During the 20 years following, I taught American Government. Economics, Statistics, US and World History, Geography, Environmental Studies and Black History.
I was admitted to Phi Delta Kappa, the educational honor society, after completing graduate school at the University of Arkansas (another story). Scholarships which followed were based on research papers I wrote on various countries 1 visited and used in my classrooms.
My civilian world gave me a educational scholarship in 1981 to East Germany for three weeks during the school term. Prior to leaving I was asked to make a contact while I was on my visit. I had a very interesting visit and made a number of friends. I discovered later I should not have been permitted to visit East Germany until I had been retired for five years.
In 1984, I was honored with a 25-day scholarship to the USSR. In my application nothing was mentioned of my military background. However, when Cam and I went through customs it was interesting to have a young Lt. accept our passports and visas, enter the data in his computer and return the documents with the statement: "Col. Ahrens, we hope you will enjoy your stay in the USSR." During our stay Cam and I were approached by the KGB (who look like our FBI) and English speaking Russians who just wanted to discuss America. Our passports were never stamped going in or out of the USSR and our visa slips were never returned.
My father, at 88. was getting ready to go on to the next life. Counseling with him, we decided to begin a foundation to help others, rather that using our inheritance for ourselves. This foundation called "The Good News" has the object of spreading the Gospel to all, especially Catholics.
Six years later, under the leadership of my husband, John, and myself, great and wonderful things have happened! Now we have a trust of 12 million dollars, a staff of six, a beautiful facility with a library, dining room, Chapel, offices, and state of the art equipment. We are blessed with hundreds of volunteers. Each day new people came to experience our loving God including hundreds of youths. We have donated 5,000 Bibles to Catholics to help them get more familiar with scripture. We have weekly luncheons (2,500 people this year), constant instruction and about 35 small groups and growing. Also, we publish a newsletter that goes to 5,000 people. This ministry is challenging, full time, and infinitely rewarding. It is an exciting new location for us - we could not be happier! Praise the Lord!.