Sunday, June 09, 2019

D-Day Plus 3

This is a copy of an old post that I posted on the blog on Memorial Day back in 2005. I put a link to it on Facebook just the other day on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. I am reposting it for blogging friends who are not on Facebook. When I think about this experience my father had as a 25 year old young man from New Jersey, it blows my mind.
 
My father was a combat medic during World War II. He landed in Normandie on D-Day +3, and made his way behind enemy lines in the Battle of the Bulge. He was awarded the Purple Heart for a severe back injury sustained while rescuing fellow wounded soldiers from an overturned tank. That was a life-long, but bloodless injury. When my father was released from the hospital, he went AWOL. It's true. He and a fellow solider went to Paris for a week to really recover. When he returned to the front lines, he was told that he had a choice to make: Be recommended for a Silver Star for bravery AND face a court martial for going AWOL, or no court martial, but lose the Silver Star. He chose not to go to court.

The combat medic was one of the unsung heroes of World War II. He lived with the front line infantrymen and was the first to answer a call for help. He gave first aid to his wounded comrades and helped them out of the line of enemy fire. More often than not, he faced the enemy unarmed and was the foundation of the medical system with hundreds of thousands of surgeons, nurses, scientists, and enlisted medics.

The main objective of the medic was to get the wounded away from the front lines. Many times this involved the medic climbing out from the protection of his foxhole during shelling or into no-man’s-land to help a fallen comrade. Once with the wounded soldier, the medic would do a brief examination, evaluate the wound, apply a tourniquet if necessary, sometimes inject a vial of morphine, clean up the wound as best as possible and sprinkle sulfa powder on the wound followed by a bandage. Then he would drag or carry the patient out of harms way and to the rear. This was many times done under enemy fire or artillery shelling.


My father told us many stories of the things he had seen on the battlefield. The cries he heard. The limbs he had seen strewn about. I wouldn't say he was haunted by it, but he never forgot.

When I was young, my father was the go-to guy for all the neighborhood kids when they sustained a street injury. He could put together a butterfly bandage with his eyes closed. He was fearless around blood, and the kinds of things that made other parents very squeamish. When my cousin nearly tore off her finger in a door-closing accident in the 1950s, my father was the one who bundled her up and took her to the hospital. He was the epitome of the calm and quiet combat medic always.

On this day the 75th anniversary of my father's landing, I remember my father who passed away in 1992. This is my Silver Star of recognition for a true hero.

20 comments:

  1. A true hero, you can be very proud of him

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  2. So wonderful that he continued to have the same ethic through his life, and told you the stories of how he helped others. Many men just button up their experiences and no one ever hears of their bravery. I'm sure you're very proud of him.

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    1. Barbara-- He told us some stories that I will never forget. I am very proud of him. He was a kind man.

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  3. A beautiful tribute to your brave father. My son is a medic, so I am doubly moved by the actions he had to perform under artillery fire, on a raging battlefield. I am so glad he came home and raised a beautiful family with a loving wife. So many of us here had difficult parenting stories, but I think you and I have been so lucky in that regard. I am honored to have met your parents through your blog. Thank you.

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    1. 37paddington-- I love that your son is a medic. The front-line in those emergency situations. We are both so lucky to have had such loving parents, and I sense that your children are growing up with the same luck!

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  4. I like the ending of this post with the Silver Star. They faced these circumstances day after day and had to keep themselves together. He also had a very soft spot when he would help the kids.

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    1. Red-- He really did have a soft spot for kids and doggies too!

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  5. A great tribute to a good man. You're right to be proud of him.

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    1. John-- It's good to be reminded that some wars really needed to be fought, and some soldiers did work in the battlefields that bloodied their hands in a different way.

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  6. Your tributes to your father touch me deeply. Medics and paramedics seem to draw on a deep well of lovingkindness. It is good to be reminded of the experience, strength, and hope that moved your father throughout his life, including his wise decision to go AWOL.

    "Beyond all reason is the mystery of love"
    (Thaddeus Golas, a World War II veteran who spent his early years in Paterson, New Jersey, and self-published a book in San Francisco in the early 1970s in hopes of helping others)

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    1. am-- I think it was a wise decision as well that he went AWOL. He truly loved recovering in Paris.

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  7. It IS astonishing to think of the terrible things so many people endured in that war -- and are still enduring in our modern wars. Your dad was a hero. They should have given him that Silver Star!

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    1. Steve-- My father did do some very brave things. He was a quiet man, so when he did tell us a few stories, we were so moved.

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  8. I agree with Steve, he should have gotten that medal with no court martial. I am glad he opened up to you about his experiences and how neat that he kept up his caring for others when he came back. Just another reason for you to be so proud of the man.

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    1. Patti-- I think just knowing that his efforts warranted a Silver Star gave him great joy. He was a good and kind father.

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  9. What a wonderful story of a very courageous young man.

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    1. NCmountain-- Thank you for your kind words.

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  10. No matter how you feel about war, you can only respect a combat medic.

    My father reached Europe about three months after D-Day in the first group of Americans to said directly from the US to the mainland of Europe. He always regretted that he was not in that landing.

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    1. Mark-- I agree. I am absolutely anti-war, but my father's role was something to be respected. Our father's fought in a war that absolutely had to be fought and won.

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