As we get closer to Veteran’s Day, it is a time to reflect on those individuals who have crossed our lives.
When I used to help feed lunch to seniors at a senior center, I met this wonderful man, a veteran of World War II.
His family had moved out to California during the 1930’s from the hard scrabble existence of having lived on a farm in Oklahoma, and had moved to California to work in the defense industry.
He was a young man who described himself as not having fully grown up as a man when World War II beckoned.
He wound up being in the 82nd Airborne.
His first action occurred in what was known as Operation Market Garden. It was the largest paratroop and glider airborne infantry ever assembled.
Besides the men involved you had vehicles, artillery and equipment to transport behind enemy lines so that they would be capable of fighting on their own.
It was Field Marshall Montgomery’s plan to shorten the war. First by liberating Holland and outflanking the Siegfried Line and then cut into Germany.
Well, my friend, who shall remain nameless, started in the war by being part of Operation Market Garden.
He was a glider pilot. He said you couldn’t really fly a glider you just kind of hoped you coaxed it in for a landing and didn’t mess it up.
His glider was part of 2500 gliders that took part in the mission.
The 82nd’s assignment was to land and take the area between Grave and Nijmegan.
He landed his glider hard on the ground so much so that he got up out of the glider groggily and stood up near a German Machine gun nest.
A veteran of the 82nd saved his life by knocking him to the ground. The veteran had already been with the 82nd for it’s mission in North Africa where they had met up with Field Marshall Rommel’s forces.
Well my friend survived the day. The battle became known famously as A Bridge Too Far.
He later had the responsibility of carrying messages on a motor cycle, from headquarters to the front lines.
Later he was part of the Battle of the Bulge and he took part in opening up one of the first concentration camps.
His was the life of many citizen soldiers who were far from home. He and a local girl fell in love in a small village near his airfield in England. They had met at the local canteen. He had to say goodbye to his teary-eyed girlfriend, like many other Yanks when it was his turn to land in Europe.
He saw much too much, and lived many lifetimes each day in combat, but he did his duty. He wouldn’t want any credit for the bravery he showed. He said he did what each and every soldier did each day in combat. He returned home and married his high school sweetheart.
It was a war of so much horror that it is not conceivable to imagine what it was like. But he was there like so many of his comrades, his brothers in arms. They sacrificed for all of us at home, as they literally fought for civilization as we know it. They fought the good fight against a horrible enemy whose acts of inhumanity will always be a hallmark of evil. The allies prevailed and the world was a better place as a result of their sacrifices.
He would neve say that he was a hero, but he was. We have reason to be proud of them as fewer and fewer of them are alive to tell their stories. But let us not forget, let us never forget what others have done so that we may enjoy our lives without the tyranny of facism.
He like his brethern were our citizen soldiers.