By Max Hrenda
During World War II, the United States saw its largest influx of military recruits in the nation’s history.
In fact, between 1940 and 1947, more than 10 million had been drafted to serve at some level of the armed forces.
But Elzy Caraway, whose name adorns the Elizabethton/Carter County Veterans Wall of Honor, was not one of those draftees.
To this day, it is not unheard of for someone to enlist in the military to find stable employment. What might be less common is for it to happen twice.
“You couldn’t keep him from working,” said Ruby Caraway, Elzy’s widow. “That was what was wrong with living here at the time. There wasn’t any work, and he had to work, so he went into the Army.”
Originally from Elk Park, N.C., Elzy’s parents had bought a house in the Buck Mountain community, just across the Tennessee/North Carolina border, shortly before he was scheduled to depart for his military training on Feb. 1, 1946.
After finishing his training at Fort Bragg, N.C., Elzy was deployed to Germany. Fortunately for him, he arrived nearly six months after the conclusion of World War II.
“It was just getting over with when he came in,” Ruby said. “He liked it, because there wasn’t any fighting going on. He might have told a different story if he had got over there sooner.”
Elzy eventually reached the rank of sergeant, and would serve in the 388th Division of Military Police in Braunschweig, Germany. Elzy and his unit were responsible for guarding a supply train that ran through Germany and through war-ravaged Europe.