By DR. LARRY MOSES
No one asked me but… It was so cold. It had been cold for days, weeks, it seemed like it had always been cold. It had been days since he had felt his feet. They say it was the coldest winter in forty years in Europe and he was willing to testify to it. He had been on the line for over ninety days and sometimes the command to attack was welcomed for it got the adrenaline pumping causing the body to warm up. The immediate threat of death wasn’t much worse than sitting in that foxhole with freezing water up to his ankles waiting for the shells to come in.
“I” Company, along with the rest of the 84th Infantry Division, had been pulled from the Siegfried Line and sent to Belgium to stop the German advance known as the Battle of the Bulge. These were not the elite 101st or 82nd Airborne of the Band of Brothers. Nor were they Patton’s flashy armor coming from the South. These were store clerks, teachers, and farm boys who were drafted in early 1944 to replace the casualties of earlier campaigns in Africa and Italy.
There were no glamorous jumps and returns to England for a rest; there was only day after day of combat. None of these thoughts entered his mind for all he could center on was the cold and the mission at hand. They had been told to stop the German advance on the North edge of the Bulge at all costs. That was accomplished and now it was time to push the German advance back and straighten the line.
Beho, Belgium was a small insignificant town; but taking it from the Germans was the mission and there were buildings there to get inside and build a fire. He and three of his companions entered the house; finding it clear of Germans they thought only of warm hands and feet. He was the old man at thirty-three; the others were not old enough to vote. They never heard the shell as it came hurdling at them. It was fired from a German 88 and the shell outran the sound of its flight. The explosion was the first noise they heard. He felt the fragments of the shell tear into his chest. He felt the warm blood on his stomach as his life ran from his body.
His last thoughts were surely of his beloved wife Bessie and his six children. He must have thought of the little blond headed baby who he saw for only two weeks while on leave from boot camp. He would never hold his children again. He may have even had time to look around and see his three companions down but he surely didn’t know that they too would join him in death. It was January 23, 1945 and he would never be cold again.
Who is a veteran? To answer this I checked my family genealogy. If you want an adventure, you should try this. I found that on my mother’s side I have a forefather who fought in the Revolutionary War. Yes, against the British. The next family veteran was on my father’s side; his family missed the Revolution because they were still in Ireland. However, in the War of 1812, there was a Roseberry and his reward was farm land in Indiana.
When the Civil War came around my mother’s family was represented on the Confederate side, my father’s side were members of the Grand Army of the Republic. My mother’s family was also active in a group in Missouri called the Bushwhackers. They fought both the Union and Confederate armies. When the Union Army came into Missouri, they considered the locals Confederate sympathizers and confiscated their livestock and food supplies. The Confederate soldiers considered them Union sympathizers and did the same. The Bushwhackers fought both armies to protect their homeland. They never owned slaves, but they didn’t really care to have the Yankees tell them they couldn’t.
I found no one in the family that went with Teddy Roosevelt to Cuba during the Spanish American War. America’s entry in World War I was short lived and neither mother nor father’s side had a veteran involved.
My father died in WWII and I had uncles on both sides of the family serving in this war. My adoptive parents lost a nephew they raised when his bomber did not return from a raid over Germany during WWII. My family missed the police action in Korea. Many of the Korean veterans object to the use of the term police action for the Korean War. I had a Marine Gunny Sgt., a Korean War veteran, explain to me when someone shoots at him and he shoots back, that’s a war. A police action is when someone writes a traffic ticket.
My brother and I both served in Vietnam at different times. My brother was in harm’s way much more so than I. He was a navigator on in-flight refuelers servicing fighters and bombers going into Hanoi. My middle son served in Desert Storm.
I write this not to glorify my status as a veteran but to encourage you to see what Veteran’s Day means to you and your family. I really don’t believe my family is unusual. Many of you have more veteran’s in your family than I have in mine. I would guess that very few of you have no veterans in your family lineage.
The point being made is we are all veterans, because when our family members serve our families serve.
While you are at the Veteran’s Day parade this year, look around. In this country where the military force is based on citizen soldiers, you will be surprised how many veterans there are in this community. We now have a group of young veterans (Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan) gray hair is no longer the key to who is and who is not a veteran.
A thank you goes out to all those who have defended this great country and those who were left behind to worry about those in harm’s way.
Thought for the week… “We remember those who were called upon to give all a person can give, and we remember those who were prepared to make that sacrifice if it were demanded of them in the line of duty, …
— Ronald Reagan