Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 16, 1999

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / June 12, 1999

The attention paid lately to the triple-whammy of Memorial Day, Father’s Day and the 55th anniversary of D-Day put me in mind of one of my pet projects, one which I hope to complete in the very near future. I’ve beenworking with my dad on his memoires of the Second World War, hoping to capture those precious recollections before they are lost forever.

Not that he was any more special (except in my mind) than many other veterans, but I feel that for the sake of family history, if nothing else, these rememberances should be preserved.

He was one of the first scouts off the landing craft in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. In time, he and his infantry outfit made its wayto the northern African shore and participated in the invasion of Sicily.

Fortunately for me, he came down with trench foot and missed his outfit’s participation in the Anzio battle, which decimated his company and likely would have killed him as well. He was sent back to North Africa torecuperate from that, and took the opportunity to take a field radio class, so that when he rejoined his company, he was an artillery spotter, radioing coordinates for artillery to shell particular targets.

He waded ashore in southern France, watching his fellow soldiers blown up by the mined beach, and was struck by shrapnel. Again, he returned toNorth Africa and then again back to his outfit. He was later struck againby a bullet in his leg, necessitating another hospital stint and, also, as a result of being too close to an artillery strike, became partially deaf in one ear.

Later, he spoke with just-released victims of the Dachau concentration camp, the same camp the sight of which sent tough-as-nails General George Patton into a fit of nausea. Still later, his outfit pursued what wasbelieved to be a fleeing Hitler to his Austrian retreat.

All this resulted in a rack of battle ribbons, a Purple Heart with cluster, a Croix-de-Guerre and other decorations. I’m also working on having acomplete set of those decorations sent to him, though it’s taken a few years since my request.

My eventual goal is to privately print those memoires, complete with old pictures of him when as a fresh-faced teen-ager, he first joined the United States Army, and then now, wearing his old garrison cap an Army blouse and all those decorations.

All this is to say, fathers can be a precious thing. One must cherish themwhile they are here, prize every moment spent in their company and treasure their memories and keep them fresh.

So, whether it’s Father’s Day or not, decorated war veteran or just a good guy, respect and honor your father. So many of these men have given somuch for you.

Leonard Gray is a reporter for L’Observateur

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