Every year in November, there is a day where we recognize veterans for all the hard work they have contributed to the country. We thank our veterans for putting their lives on the line to fight for our freedom. Veteran’s Day is on November 11 and it is considered a federal holiday. Many families have family members who were or are currently in the United States Armed Forces. In my family, my grandpa was part of the United States Armed Force, a former WV State Senator, and mostly importantly, a veteran.
It all started when my grandpa enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943. His first assignment was to report to Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. He was a replacement assigned to a unit in the 29th division. By July 24, 1944, he was with Company G, 120th Regiment, 30th Infantry Division in St. Lo, France, where he encountered friendly fire which killed 24 American troops and wounded 128 more. Then he was wounded, twice on Hill 314 in France due to his troops heroically defending their positions during a counter attack that was ordered by Hitler. The regiment lost over 400 of its 740 men during the attack which lasted from August 6-12. It became known by military historians as the Lost Battalion. After recovering from his wounds in England, my grandpa returned to action in time to participate in the Battle of the Bulge. During that battle, he received another combat wound when he and a dozen men from his unit were captured by German troops and sent to Prison Camp XIII near the North Sea. On May 10 of that year, the camp was liberated by British troops and he returned to Wellsburg (his hometown) to await further orders. While there, President Truman ordered the bombing of Japan which ended the war.
For my grandpa’s service, he was awarded various honors like the Purple Heart with Cluster, two Bronze Stars, Presidential Unit Citation, Five Campaigns Medal, French Jubilee of Liberty Medal, POW Medal, Belgian Croix de Guerre, Combat Infantry Medal, and European Campaign Medal. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant. He was not the type to boast or brag. I didn’t even know about all of these awards until I turned ten.
Sadly, my grandfather passed away when I was in seventh grade and I am still learning more about him each day. At the time of his death, he was awaiting confirmation as a Knight of the Legion of Honor from the government of France. Upon returning to civilian life, he served as Chairman of the Brooke County Democratic Executive Committee, including the period of the 1960 Presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy. He further served his country when President Kennedy appointed him U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of West Virginia. At the time of his appointment he was the youngest Marshal in the country. In 1965, he was reappointed as Marshal by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He served in this position until 1969. He later served three terms in the West Virginia State Senate, representing the First Senatorial District from 1983-94. Among his senatorial positions were Majority Whip, Chairman of the Labor Committee, and member of the Committee on Military Affairs. In addition, my grandpa served his community through public service throughout his life. He served as President of the Northern Panhandle Fellowship Home, President of the Fraternal Order of Police, President of the Independent Guard Union at Weirton Steel, Treasurer of the Brooke County Museum Commission, a member of the Weirton Steel ESOP Joint Study Committee, incorporating member of the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Foundation, board member of the Brooke County Commission on Aging, and a member of the Bethany College Parents Council, among other civic and fraternal activities. He was Commander of the Ohio Valley Barbed Wire #1, which he helped charter as an organization for former POWs of all wars to bond, heal, and share their experiences. He retired from Weirton Steel Corporation.
Overall, my grandfather is and will always be an important person to me. He has taught me what hard work truly is. He also taught me that everyone has a story and you don’t have to always brag about your accomplishments to make yourself better known. I grew up thinking he was just my grandpa, but I realize that my grandfather has done a lot for this country by putting his life on the line for others. I will always respect veterans and I think they deserve more than just one day of recognition. I am thankful for others who are willing to give up their lives in order to fight for my country.