Greatest Generation: Fierce Fortitude

Greatest Generation: Fierce Fortitude

These wartime heroes share their stories about everything from underage enlistment to paving the way for women in the service.

Robert Grobelny


Robert GrobelnyStaff Sergeant Robert Grobelny is truly one of the Greatest Generation. He joined the Army on October 15, 1942. He saw action in the African Middle East, fought at Normandy and was with the troops that were in the Battle of the Bulge. When asked about his service in the Army he states he’s lucky to be alive. When asked about the Battle of the Bulge he just shivers and states, “It was cold!” For his service to his country Robert was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, WWII victory Medal, European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with five bronze stars, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Robert was honorably discharged from the Army on November 17, 1945, after serving his country well in its fight for freedom.



Peggy Swanson served her country as a Staff Sergeant in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), which was the women’s branch of the United States Army.

Serving from 1943 to 1945, Peggy was involved in several top-secret missions, and near the end of her enlistment she supervised clerical duties. She worked for the first director of the Women’s Army Air Corp, Oveta Culp Hobby, a prominent society woman from Texas. As an enlisted woman, she earned pay grade 4, which netted a whopping $78.00 per month and $936 per year!

Peggy is an active member of the American Legion #155 and the VFW, both in Carmel. She’s also an active member of the Spectrum community. Her favorite activities are working on 1,000-piece puzzles, outings, happy hour, games, parties and crafts. She also loves spending time with her family members who live locally.



Keith Bratton began cartooning early in life at North Side High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. After his graduation, he joined the U.S. Navy Air Corps, and was assigned to fly combat missions in the South Pacific until WWII ended.

Keith was so certain that he was going to fail (he didn’t) the final test to become a bombardier, that
at 10,000 feet he accidently pulled the ripcord for his parachute while he was in the bombardier seat.
He went on to fly 19 successful combat missions as a petty officer from 1943 to 1946.

He remembers one early morning (August 6th) on the ground at North Field, Tinian in the Mariana Islands in 1945. At about 5:08 a.m., he observed unusual activity around a B-29 Bomber — the Enola Gay, which sat off on its own some distance from the other aircraft. Later, he heard that a “bomb the size of a pea was dropped on Hiroshima and leveled the city.” Of course, it was the now infamous Enola Gay.

In his spare time during the war years, he would create insignias for airplanes, which would then be painted on, personalizing the plane. He credits his love of flying and all things aviation with
introducing him to people who have becoming lifelong friends including Senator William (Pete) Knight who was an X-15 test pilot and Roscoe Turner who was a record-breaking American aviator.

Following his discharge, he enrolled in Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he attended John Herron Art School. He was commissioned by his 1950 class to create 20 oil paintings, depicting college life. These works were installed in the then newly opened Atherton Student Center, where they remained until a recent remodeling.

Graduating with a degree in journalism, he worked briefly in that profession at the Indianapolis News and later at the Indianapolis Times, aspiring to become an editorial cartoonist. His list of jobs is varied and includes speaker, illustrator, editorial cartoonist, author and advertising agency owner —
among many others. Keith Bratton Advertising Agency began operations in 1961 and through the years won every major award in radio, TV and print advertising. He retired in the late 1980s.

During the course of his career, he illustrated books, created a syndicated panel cartoon and developed a bestselling record for plants called “Vegetation Conversation,” as well as many other entrepreneurial endeavors and projects.

In retirement, he devotes his time to his three children Kim, Kirk and Eric. He enjoys playing golf, and of course, art remains a centerpiece in his life. Keith has an open door policy at Meadow Brook and enjoys having residents and team members stop by to enjoy the artwork that decorates the walls of his apartment. He enjoys doing caricatures, which he says is more difficult than one would think. He delights in surprising team members and residents with caricatures — and they are just as delighted to receive them!



Conrad “Bud” Berghoefer, born in Detroit in 1930 and later moved to a northern suburb of the city, was
plagued with mischief in his early teens, dropping out of high school at age 15 and even being part of a local gang. At age 17, he decided to enlist in the Army, and although his mother wasn’t happy about it, she hoped it would keep him out of trouble, so she signed the paperwork, and he was off to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.

After four months of artillery training, Conrad was stationed for a year in Taeg, Korea, during the occupation. In 1949, he was in the last group to leave Korea and was sent to Hawaii, where he remained for the final 11 months of his enlistment. His teenage mischief followed him into the Army and he was arrested many times in Hawaii for disorderly conduct. He was discharged three days before the Korean War began, and the man who took his place in the platoon was killed.

After being a civilian for a year, Conrad’s mother begged him to re-enlist to watch out for his younger brother who had enlisted, also underage, just as Conrad had been. He did, only to find out his brother received a minority discharge — and now Conrad had three more years to serve. Back to Fort Knox for a refresher, then he was on to Korea for two years, where, thankfully, his sergeant liked him and got him
off the front line and into the maintenance and engineering department. He was happy to be learning valuable skills, and this set the tone for the remainder of his military career. In 1954, he was discharged and able to return home to Utica, Michigan.

He married, for the second time, and he and his wife had a daughter. But life was different when he returned home, and he had a tough time finding work. He decided to enlist once again, and this time was sent to Germany. Thanks to his rank at this time, he was allowed to have his wife and daughter join him overseas. However, tragedy struck. His wife died and his daughter was missing. He immediately returned home and found his daughter with a family friend who didn’t know his wife had passed away.

After this hardship, he went to Fort Leonardwood, Missouri, to complete his enlistment. On a weekend pass, he returned to Detroit to visit family. His sister introduced him to the woman who would quickly become his third wife and a mother to his young daughter. The couple remained married for 28 years,
during which time Conrad continued to re-enlist and serve his country for many years. He was awarded four Bronze Stars over the course of his military service.

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