New World War II Memorial a moving tribute to folks like my dad
(Dan Morris is The Jackson Sun 's senior writer for special projects.)
New hearing aids were placed in my father's ears on Thursday, allowing him to understand our phone conversation with relative ease that night. While we talked, the television news showed the new World War II Memorial, which was dedicated Saturday in Washington, D.C. It was my dad's first look at the memorial and too brief of a glance for him to form an opinion. But I could tell in his voice he is pleased it has been built. "I sent a little money ($20) to help them build it," he said. Would he like to go see it? "Oh, yeah," he said. "I'd like to go back to France again, too, but I know I never will. And I doubt if I'll ever go.up there to see that memorial. I can't fight that traffic." Dad is 85. His lower back is giving him fits, making it difficult to walk at times. His heart has seen better days but keeps on ticking. And those ears are hearing better by the hour. As we talked, I recalled exactly why my dad needs those hearing aids. World War II is mostly to blame, but he considers it a small sacrifice compared to many of his buddies. Andrew Paul Morris left the farm in Middle Tennessee and became part of Gen. George Pat-ton's Third Army. About a month after D-Day, he crossed the English Channel into France and helped push the Germans back to Berlin. He was in the 212th Armored Field Artillery battalion.
Eventually a staff sergeant, he was in the survey section as a forward observer. Dad would sneak up on the enemy, plot the position and radio back to tell the artillery personnel where to aim the 105 mm howitzers.
He was standing beside several of the guns one day when the Germans surprised them with a mortar attack. One round hit a half-track, killing two of his pals, Red and Facas. Suddenly, the howitzers responded, just above my dad's head. The roar of the guns shocked my dad's hearing. For two weeks, his ears ached. That probably led to his hearing loss, doctors said. In the late 1950s, experimental surgery restored his hearing for 30 years before it began to decline again. There were plenty more explosions that didn't help my dad's hearing.
He was in at least five major battles, including the Battle of the Bulge, which decided the war's outcome. He crossed France and had Christmas dinner in Metz, France, in 1944. Then he went to Luxembourg and to Bastogne in Belgium, before advancing into Germany.
His first pight in Luxembourg, a single German airplane dropped a , bomb that almost blew up the headquarters where he was staying. But his closest brush with death came one day when his squad was being shelled by tanks. He dived into his slip trench, and his buddy, Bill Hodgin, leaped on top of him just as a shell exploded. The shrapnel shredded Hodgin's back and blew off part of his left foot. Dad cut Hodgin's boot off, got him to safety and stayed with him until an ambulance took him away.
They never saw each other again until 1971, 27 years later. Our family took a trip out West and stopped in Spencer, Iowa, where Hodgin worked at the post office. When they met in the street outside, dad shook Hodgin's hand and gave him a gift.. It was a watch is Hodgin had given my father for safekeeping when he was wounded. That was a special moment Folks like dad and Hodgin, who has since died, are part of "The Greatest Generation." But they simply did what was expected of them at the time and find no pleasure in recalling the horrors of war. On this Memorial Day, let's not forget to pause and salute all who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for you, for me and for our cherished country.
The Jackson Sun
30 May 2004, Sun • Page 3