Richard Reuss was the youngest of his family to be drafted during World War II. He had five brothers and a brother-in-law who all had been taken before him.
His brother Norman served in the Army Tank Corps, Vernon was a paratrooper who wound up in Japan and Melvin was in the Air Corps as a radioman. Their brother-in-law, Roy Roos, was in the Air Corps, "caught" by the lottery before America officially entered the war.
His oldest brother, Alfred, Jr., drove a gasoline supply truck and was attached to Gen. George Patton’s Third Army. His brother Henry was in Patton’s Third Army on a tank destroyer. Across the world, they reunited.
"Henry and Alfred crossed paths after the Battle of the Bulge when Patton headed to Germany. Alfred pulled up in the tanker and was filling Henry’s tank destroyer when they met. That was really something."
The Reuss brothers' mother had died young, in 1927, so the family grew up with their father, Alfred, Sr., at the helm, and their grandmother's help. Alfred, Sr. ran a grocery store in their hometown of Blue Island, Ill. As Richard's brothers were called to serve, he watched the number of stars on the flag that hung in their window grow. He looked out for the bicycle messenger.
"You always wondered whose house he was going to because he always had a telegram saying something."
He brought the bad news.
"You were wounded, you were killed, you were missing in action."
Still, the bicycle messenger didn't knock on their door. His brothers stayed out of harm's way.
Richard kept up with current events.
"I read a lot. I was a paperboy, and I delivered the Chicago Daily News and so the day-by-day of the war I read because I was interested in it.
"Then all of a sudden here it came and it was, 'You have been selected ...' That was the way the letter started out, and it was signed by President Roosevelt. So you reported to the post office at a certain time and off you went to downtown Chicago."
He was called to serve in the infantry in January 1945 but never made it overseas. The war ended later that year.
"It felt like it was your obligation not to yourself, not to your family, but to your country," Richard said. "And the most surprising thing was everybody came home, nobody had been hurt."
After the war, all the Reusses and one Roos came back home to Blue Island. There, a family friend persuaded every one of them - all seven - to join the American Legion Post 50.
"Roy Akey was the chemistry teacher. He was more of a friend than just a teacher at the high school. He knew all of us boys - we all went there and I think he just probably made a couple telephone calls and we all got together, and we did it."
The Reuss family had been a tight-knit family, Richard said. This photo of them at the American Legion illustrates that closeness, with a proud father at its center.
But as time went on, they married off and some moved farther away. Vernon's now in Stockbridge, Mass. Norman became a banker in Grand Rapids, Mich.
After his military service, Richard married his wife, Mary, only four months after meeting her at a friend's dinner.
"I looked across the table and I said, 'That’s the love of my life.'"
Richard worked in the sporting goods business with Roy before becoming a salesman. He and Mary had a family and lived in the same house in Blue Island for 50 years, before moving to Glenview to be closer to their daughter.
Richard, 87, Vernon, 91, and Henry, 94, are still alive. Richard still flies an American flag from his apartment balcony, though he needs to replace its holder, which broke in a windstorm.
"I wish I had the flag that they flew from the window that had six stars for the boys and the seventh star for the brother-in-law but I don’t know whatever happened to that."
Back row (L to R): Unknown, Richard Reuss, Roy Roos, Melvin Reuss, Roy Akey
Front row (L to R): Alfred Reuss, Jr., Norman Reuss, Alfred Reuss, Sr. (father), Henry Reuss, Vernon Reuss