G. Sam Piatt
PDT Outdoors Writer
As we pause to observe Veteran’s Day, I wonder how many of our military veterans, who today are serving their country at a post, or on a ship, thousands of miles from home, are thinking of that tree stand in the woods, where wild birds twit and twitter in the branches, and wishing they could be home for Opening Day.
And let us pray that we never forget those who can never be home again for Opening Day, those who gave all and lie sleeping on some foreign battlefield, having died for the cause of freedom.
As I interviewed the more than 65 veterans who tell their combat stories of World War II in the book, “Men of Valor,” there was one thing they all wanted to make clear: “Hey, don’t make me out a hero,” they said. “The heroes are my friends who didn’t come back.”
When I did the interviews and wrote the stories from early 2008 to mid-2011, these men were in their mid- to late 80s. The motivation for the book was that nationwide they were dying daily by the thousands, taking with them their stories of what it was like on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific Islands during those most dark and difficult years of our nation’s history.
The book was published by the Jesse Stuart Foundation Sept. 11. As I have tried to get copies of the book to these men, I discovered that more than a dozen of them have died since I talked with them.
The latest of these was Albert Boggs, who was a paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, he sailed over the beaches of Normandy in a glider, crashing down behind enemy lines. He survived the landing and fought the Germans through the hedgerow country and on into France.
Later, in Bastogne, his Company C, made up of about 150 men, became surrounded by counterattacking Germans and had to fight their way out. When they managed to get out of Bastogne, Boggs and only about a dozen of his buddies were still on their feet. The others were either dead or in field hospitals.
They buried Boggs Friday in Memorial Cemetery in Wheelersburg. He was 94 but still very much alert, able to drive his own car to the grocery store.
His three sisters, numerous nephews and nieces, and friends mourned his passing.
The Rev. Clayton Brown, who delivered a beautiful eulogy, remembered how Boggs longed to see his wife, Katie, and his blood brother, Burlen, both of whom died a year and a half ago, as well as those Army buddies of years ago, who he referred to as “brothers.”
Such was the case with most of those WW2 veterans interviewed. Some had tears well up in their eyes as they thought of their GI friends of long ago, men they went through boot camp with, went on liberty with, shared foxholes and ships and bases with, and men they saw die at their side.
President John F. Kennedy, speaking at Arlington National Cemetery Nov. 11 1961, said, “I do not believe that any nation in the history of the world has buried its soldiers farther from its native soil than we Americans.”
One such example is the story of Sgt. Stanley Wayne Bear, a brother of Lewis Countian Glen Bear of Briary, now of Stout, Ohio, below Portsmouth.
Sgt. Wayne Bear’s story was told in The Independent this past week. He was serving in Korea as a member of Co. F, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division on Sept. 4, 1950, a few days short of his 19th birthday, when he was killed while fighting in the battle of Pusan Perimeter in South Korea.
So Sgt. Bear’s remains were buried on a battlefield somewhere 8,000 miles from home. How his mother, who held that little baby in her arms, watched him march off to war, must have mourned him through the years, wondering where her son’s body lay. She died not knowing.
But for the last decade the U.S. Dept. of Defense has been working with the governments of South and North Korea to investigate and recover unaccounted for U.S. Service members.
Last month, using the DNA from a blood sample from some of Sgt. Bear’s relatives, Sgt. Bear’s body was positively identified. He’s back home. He was buried at 2 p.m. yesterday in a graveside service at the new Kentucky Veterans Cemetery off the Industrial Highway in Greenup County.
The Korean War ended in 1952 and about 10 years later America was back at it again – fighting to keep the communists of North Vietnam from setting up their dictatorship over South Vietnam.
It dragged on for nearly 10 years and was an unpopular war by some here at home. It’s the only war the United States has lost. Sadly, it cost the lives of some 54,000 young Americans.
History tells us of the burning draft cards, the flights north by some to Canada to avoid the draft.
It’s all been forgiven now.
Americans know how to fight an enemy; and they know how to forgive.
America has never fought a war to set up a dictatorship. America fights wars to end dictatorships.
From World War I on, America has never fought a war to gain territory. At the end of WW2, we had the Philippines. We gave the islands back to the people.
Imperialistic Japan, which had never lost a war in its history, in the wake of two horrible atomic bombs, in August 1945 was driven to it knees in unconditional surrender. American troops patrolled the streets of Tokyo in the occupation. Japan was ours. The spoils of war.
Look at Japan today. One of the top economies in the world, brought back with the help of American ingenuity, materials and money.
You can and should be proud, young people, of America and its military.
I know some of the Vietnam veterans, who finally got the honor and recognition due them. They are proud and tough. Larry Robinette stepped on a land mine in the jungle. He came home minus one leg, missing just below the thigh.
The stub had healed and we were dove hunting in the Siloam Bottoms. We came to a fence about four feet high, wires too close to crawl under. I said, “Larry let me help you. I’ll get on the other side. You put your arms around my neck, climb my back…”
“No! You can hold my gun and my crutch,” he said.
With that, he stepped back, leaped with his good leg, rolled over that fence, and landed with a thud on his back on the ground on the other side.
He go up, I gave him his crutch and gun, and we headed on for a water hole to set up for the hunt.
I’d like for the critics of America to show me one border of it where there’s a fence built to keep its people in. They can show me one to the south to keep people out, people who don’t want to follow the law or our constitution.
Have you ever seen a boatload of people fleeing Miami to get to Cuba?
We’ve seen Cubans shot down in the water by Castro’s nice government as they tried to make it to freedom in America.
And of course we remember the Berlin Wall of 30 years ago, built to keep Communist Russia’s people in.
Say what you will about President George H. Bush and Iraq and no weapons of mass destruction, the America military helped rid the world of a cruel dictator. Saddam Hussein fired those scud missiles into Israel, not caring if they landed on schools or where, or how many civilians they killed.
Some of his sons raped teenage virgins, usually killing them afterwards.
Saddam, defeated, was caught hiding in a spider hole, and his own people hung him by the neck until dead.
Today, Iraq has a chance at its own democracy. Women walk the streets without covering their faces, little girls go to school.
Some of tomorrow’s veterans are in combat this very hour in Afghanistan, watching their front and watching their back. They’re against an enemy that fights dirty. They’ll strap explosives on a willing young person and have them walk into a happy, crowded wedding party and set it off, killing a hundred innocent civilians.
Let’s hope it don’t come to our shores —again.
The enemy is out there. They have vowed to kill Americans…kill Americans and annihilate the Jews.
Pray that the United States never turns its back on Israel. God said in his word, “I will bless (the nations) that bless you, and curse those that curse you.”
I pray that our young people will never have to answer a draft call again.
But I hope they realize that America and our way of life is worth defending. Life without perfect freedom is really no life at all.
Meanwhile, we can’t all go into the military, but let’s do what we can here at home to make us stronger. Volunteer for a fire department, an emergency service.
Support your local churches with your attendance, and give them some money. For God’s sake, they help to feed and clothe the people who are temporarily down.
This nation was built on the principals of Christianity. May that banner forever fly.
Judgment is coming. Justice is coming.
May God bless our veterans and their families, and may God continue to bless our great nation!
MEN OF VALOR
One reason “Men of Valor” was written was to serve as a reminder of what our ancestors went through in those terrible three and one-half years of combat in the battle for freedom.
It’s a good book to have and to read. I still have some copies. To get one, make out a check to me for $26, which includes the cost of handling and mailing, and send it, along with the return address you want the book mailed to, to me at 50 First Street, South Shore, KY 41175.
Also let me know if you want me to sign it and to whom.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (606) 932-3619 or Gsamwriter@aol.com.