I was invited to a Veterans' Day program at a local school this year, but didn't go in deference to my uncles, among other things. Decorated veterans who "paid the price" of war in several ways, neither of them would have anything to do with the organizations of veterans, nor would they talk about their experiences of World War II. I'm going to explain just a small piece of that here as a tribute to them.
Uncle Joe Roberts was the athlete of the family, would have been a professional football player and was certainly the "hero" of our family if that word can be used. He lost a leg in a ferocious fire fight in Leyte in the Phillipines, was described as "missing" to our family — and was fortunately found in a pile of bodies by the "clean up troops" with a missing leg, nearly dead, but fortunately saved.
I saw him for the first time after he returned in a huge hospital ward in a San Fernando Valley Los Angeles VA facility. Just after Grandmother and I arrived at his bedside, an officer strode down the path between the beds and threw the purple hearts on the beds.
Joe just reached over, picked it up and threw it in the trash can. Everyone in the ward had lost limbs. He lived out his life as a coach and devoted father. Thank you, Uncle Joe.
Uncle Dick was the lesser of the two as a soldier. His big battle was the Battle of the Bulge. Driving a truck, he was hit by a shell (luckily of small caliber), thrown out of the truck and suffered broken bones. He didn't receive a purple heart, went to a field hospital and then was sent home (which may have saved his life).
His life was changed because of his injury, but he didn't pay the price his younger brother did. A great uncle but no warrior, he was always there for you and when he couldn't have children himself, he adopted someone who became one of our cousins, Toby. Thank you, Uncle Dick, for your life and example as a man, and to your splendid mate, Aunt Bessie.
It feels good to take this story beyond my family, and also remind those in the family who may have forgotten what these uncles did for us.
I am deeply grateful for their understanding of war and refusal to glorify it in any way. Thanks again, dear uncles.
DON ROBERTS, Menomonie