Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Patton Warrior

I recently wrote about an ailing World War II veteran whom I met once and had a delightful conversation with. Mostly it was a mirthful conversation about how FUBAR the Army is. Even a kid can see that, because that's all he was when he was sent off to fight the Hitler killing machine.

For instance, he laughingly disclosed that he received a Normandy Campaign battle ribbon because he was at sea on June 6, 1944, even though he was a thousand miles from Omaha Beach. He was on an ocean liner in the North Atlantic, being transported from America to England for further training before being sent to the ETO. But he saw action soon enough, as a member of a tank killer unit in Patton's Third Army.

He only told me about the humorous parts though, like getting a purple heart after receiving a slight injury when he rolled his jeep. I gleaned the rest from incidental conversations with his family members. After the post, family members told me I reported some facts wrong. He did not have a buddy shot and killed while he stood next to him at the Battle of the Bulge, rather, his buddy standing beside him shot and killed a German who was aiming at my friend.

All I know is that war is about killing, and people died where he was. Rather theirs than ours, but my friend and his buddy were there doing their duty at the greatest clash of arms that American forces have ever participated in. They were only boys really, in their late teens,

He died last week. I cannot pretend to know how badly his family feels, but I am so sorry. I am also so glad that I received the opportunity to speak with him a couple of years ago, before he went. I can still see him flitting just behind my eyelids, an elderly gentleman happily telling gentle and funny war stories to a willing listener. He was an American hero, one of Patton's brave warriors, a man who did extraordinary things and now he's gone.

No comments: