03 May 2009

Finally, A Glimpse To The Past

For years now, I have been searching for some information on my father, one of those from the "Greatest Generation" era who came back from World War 2 and promptly put away most memories (as best they could) of the hell they experienced.

I have his uniform, and learned from some of the insignia that he was on initial beach landings at either (or both) the islands of Leyte Gulf and Okinawa in the Pacific Theater of operations. But the man, an extrovert (its where I get it I am sure), was one of those individuals who packed up his wartime experiences in a box and stowed them out of sight. He didn't talk about his time in the service, except on rare occasions. Even then, it was minimal. I have a few black and white poloroids taken when he was in-country.

Best of all, I have his Bronze Star medal.

But I have never known for what action or actions he was awarded this honor. To him, the war was something he had to endure. To make a difference. To save a nation. But when it was over he moved on. He had lost part of his youth, but at least he came back.

Inquiries to the U.S. Army found that his records, along with records of hundreds of thousands of other service men and women from various decades, were destroyed in a warehouse fire in Omaha, Neb. in the 1970s. These were carbon copies (will I need to define "carbon copy" to younger readers?) of service records. Before the government microfilmed or computerized records.

Last Friday, the Ohio Military Hall of Fame for Valor (OMHF) held its annual induction ceremony of Ohioans who have distinguished themselves on the field of battle. I was not able to make the Statehouse ceremony this year due to my needing to catch up on business after a month of being unavoidably distracted by matters that are too bizarre to discuss here. Still, on Saturday I watched the proceedings on tape, and remembered my friend Bob White, a colleague who was one of the founders of the OMHF. who passed away late last year after a short and courageous battle with cancer. Bob will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery later this month, and I hope to attend the ceremonies.

Anyway, Bob had encouraged me to keep looking for the records that I had thus far been denied. Though dad's Bronze Star did not include the "V" device for valor, the fact that he had been honored with such, Bob reminded me, meant something important. Even if he put it all away, Bob had said, never forget his sacrifice. And I haven't.

Earlier today, I found what I had been looking for. Stuck to other documents from my father's high school days was the citation for his Bronze Star. I found it by accident while looking for some other documents at my mom's place. Caught in the middle of otherwise non-descript photos and notes about high school achievements. A call to mom confirmed for me that she had no idea the papers were here all along.

Here is what it says:

APO 96
23 OCTOBER 1945


By direction of hte President, under the provisions of Executive Order No. 9419, 4 February 1944 (Section II, Bulletin No. 3, War Department 1944), and pursuant to authority contained in Ar 600-45 (Decorations), 22 September 1943, as amended by Change No. 3, 25 April 1944, a Bronze Star Medalis awarded by the Commanding General, 96th Infantry Division, to the following named military personnel:

Technician Fifth Grade Eldon S. Greer (military ID number ommitted), Medical Department, United States Army. for heroic service in connection with military operations against the enemy on Okinawa island on 21 April 1945. When one of hte rifle companies ofan attack Infantry battalion suffered several casualties as it was making an assault on an enemy held hill, two of the casualties were in a position that, to reach them, required crossing one hundred and fifty yards of open terrain under enemy fire. Receiving word that the men were seriously wounded and needed immediate evacuation, Technician Fifth Grade Eldon Greer and the other men of the squad crossed the area under extremely heavy enemy machine gun fire and gave the casualties immediate first aid and under the cover of a smoke screen laid down by the line company, succeeded in evacuating them back across the open terrain and hence to the aid station. These heroic actions, reflecting exemplary courage and coolness under fire, are a credit to himself and the military service.

That's him. working for the benefit of others. I saw it in my youth and as an adult. He was that way back in the day, too.

I guess I know where I get it from. Thanks Dad! Both for your service, and what you gave me.

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