I’ve written about my neighbor before. He’s the man who lived across the street. The man who raised a garden big enough to feed a city block. The man who fought in WWII and received several medals and a commendation from President Roosevelt.
That last part I didn’t know until his ninetieth birthday party. I saw the medals. Heard the stories. This guy was one of a kind and I didn’t know it.
This week he died. At 98.
Born in 1922 in Coalgate, Oklahoma he was the eldest son of an Oklahoman farmer. He quit school after the sixth grade when his father needed him to work the fields. When WWII broke out, he enlisted in the Army Air Forces, receiving his radio and gunnery training before being awarded his wings.
Assigned to the Eighth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress “Skinny”, part of the 94th Bomb Group, he flew thirty-three missions—three more than the requisite thirty. The three extra missions were not ordered, but volunteered. One of the team members had become ill and was forced to remain behind while his flight crew finished their tour of duty. When my neighbor and his buddies learned the sick crew member would have to fly with a new group to complete his tour, the flight crew offered to fly three additional missions for him. Each of the members of the group received a special commendation for their willingness to put their lives in danger three more times.
His crew targeted Nazi military and industrial sites in support of American ground forces. On one mission the bomb bay door got stuck and because he was the smallest man aboard he had to cross the cat walk to free it. Nothing stood between him and the ground far below except for that narrow walkway.
President Roosevelt cited this group for the historic bombing of the Muhlembau aircraft assembly plant at Brunswick, Germany as well as participating in the Third Air Division England to Africa shuttle bombing of Messerschmitt aircraft assembly plants at Regensburg. He was awarded the Air Medal and two Oak Leaf Clusters.
When he returned home he went to Paris, Texas to marry the girl he’d left behind. They moved to Oregon and were together for sixty-three years before she passed away in 2009. After she died we spent the next nine years mowing his lawn, inviting him to dinner and family outings, taking him to holiday church services, and sharing our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In 2018 he needed to leave his home and reside in assisted living, but before he did he recommitted his life to the Lord, as he said it, “to make sure I got it right the first time.”
In Acts 16:31 we are told, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
That was his biggest victory.
Enjoy heaven, my friend.
2 Replies to “When Heaven Gained A Hero”
Thanks for sharing this. What a wonderful legacy!
We miss him. But his story should be told. Thanks for writing. Pat Lee