Honoring a special friend on his birthday
“O’NEIL P. BOE, 18133998, Sergeant, 507th Parachute Infantry. For gallantry in action on 10 July 1944 one mile from LITHAIRE, FRANCE. Friendly troops after passing through our unit reported to this company that their 610 radio belonging to their forward artillery observer had been captured by the enemy. Sergeant BOE, without orders, moved forward under heavy enemy fire, recaptured the radio, and returned it to the artillery observer. Our artillery was then enabled to place fire on enemy positions allowing the friendly troops to resume their advance. Entered military service from RESERVE, LOUISIANA.”
Signed: M. B. Ridgway, Major General, U.S. Army
For this heroic action above and beyond the call of duty, my friend, O’Neil, was awarded the Silver Star. This medal is second only to the Medal of Honor.
On Saturday, June 29, O’Neil will celebrate his 91st birthday.
Who is O’Neil Boe of Reserve? He is one of eight children, whose parents were Jean Baptiste Boe and Josephine Klibert. He enlisted in the U.S. Army seven months after the Japanese attacked Pearl
Harbor. On a three-day leave in 1943, he married Rose Catoire. He said they had a two-day honeymoon.
As a paratrooper assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, he made a total of 42 jumps (three combat jumps behind enemy lines). One of those jumps was on June 4, 1944, in Normandy. In fact, his picture with five or six other paratroopers, together with Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, is displayed in the D-Day Museum in New Orleans. I asked him what the general said as he addressed the group. O’Neil answered that Gen. Eisenhower had tears in his eyes and said, “Most of you will never come back.” He was right. Many were killed, and their bodies remained on the battlefield in Normandy.
On his return home, while he and Rose raised their five children, he served his community as an organizer of the Reserve Volunteer Fire Department and was active in the V.F.W. and the Boy Scouts. He found time to participate in local politics. A barber by trade, he also drove a school bus. Everyone in Reserve knew him, but few, if any (with the exception of his family), knew about his military service.
He is more patriotic today than ever. As you enter his driveway on West 18th Street, the first thing you see is a big American flag.
I mentioned that he jumped out of a plane 42 times. He once told me, “Harold, I never landed in an airplane. I always had to jump out.” He has never been on a commercial flight.
After Katrina, the 82nd Airborne Division was sent here to help with the recovery. One day, I went to his house and told him to get his medal because we were going to visit the young men now serving in the 82nd. He wore it around his neck, and I was amazed how the young soldiers gathered around him to shake his hand and admire the prestigious Silver Star Medal. Many people who have known O’Neil have never realized the significance of his military service, but they did.
O’Neil has enjoyed hunting, fishing and gardening. He’s had a full life. When I asked if he had any regrets, he said, “None, other than losing my wife 24 years ago and two of my sons, who died in automobile accidents.”
I’ve heard it said that when an old man dies, a whole library is buried with him.
“Happy Birthday, O’Neil!” Thanks for being my friend and allowing me to visit a small part of your library.
If you have any questions or comments, please write to Get High on Life, P.O. Drawer U, Reserve, LA 70084, call 985-652-8477, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.