Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Greater Love Hath No Man…

Happy Veteran’s Day! This is the new Veteran’s Park in my Grandparent’s hometown.

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This is the bench that honors my favorite Veteran, my Grandpa Victor Ness. 64 years ago today he was discharged from the Army.

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Here is part of my Grandpa’s story, retold by my Grandma. The story picks up after they got married on his first furlough.

“Well, anyway, it was a sad parting because our future was pretty uncertain. He had planned for me to come to North Carolina as soon as my teaching job for the year ended, but Uncle Sam had different plans.

They moved them to Mississippi in May and then back northeast and then to Virginia Beach, Virginia. There they backed the train right out on the pier and the guys were loaded onto a ship and headed for Italy. It was an old British boat and they were fed oatmeal and rotten fish. Victor said that the canteen did a big business. It would be empty just after it opened. They docked in Oran, Africa for a short time. It was there that they sold their mattress covers to gals that used them for wedding dresses. Mattress cover – don’t you know what they were for? Each man carried one and if he was killed in action the remains of the body would be put into that mattress cover.

Then they went to Naples, Italy. It was here that Victor was assigned to the 88th Blue Devil Division under the guidance of General Mark Clark and Col. Fry. He saw a good deal of action in Italy. Victor says, “We walked up and down the Po Valley.” I guess the two battles I have heard most about are Mt. Battaglia and the one where they were in the front lines for 54 days in a row. Mt. Battaglia had a sort of castle on this high hill and the Germans and the American were trying to occupy it at the same time. They were so close to the Germans it was hand to hand battle there. After a week of battle, they finally took the hill and there were only seven boys left in the American company.

And the other time they were 54 days on the front line – no shaves or showers and C rations for food. That was a long time. He said they would march in the dark – each on hanging on to the guy in front of him. One guy dropped his ammunition box and they heard it go thumping down, down, down so they knew they were on a mountain walk. One time their company was hiding under a bridge and they heard the Germans walking over them.

He came close enough too – a bullet went through the blanket he was carrying on his back and another one grazed his ear enough so it drew blood. They were a happy bunch when replacements came and they were called back for a rest. Victor went to the French Riviera for his rest.

When the Germans surrendered in September, Victor did some stockade duty – that is, guarding prisoners. He said so many of them were just kids and they shared cigarettes with them. It just shows us that there wasn’t a grudge held. These German soldiers were only fighting under orders too.”

That’s just one man’s story. There are thousands of others: some are heroic, some are scary and difficult, some have happy endings, some are tragic. Throughout the political turmoil that has surrounded war, there’s no doubt that soldiers have shown great bravery and great love in their sacrifice. And I’m thankful.

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Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13


Anonymous said...

What a nice tribute! I'll call them and make sure they see it at Vivian's or Byron's!


Anonymous said...

I am a proud great-niece of a wonderful man. Reading this makes me even more proud. Love you Uncle Victor! --Lisa Yetter Hislop

Amy D, said...

Thanks for the great blog--I was introduced to it through Marilyn Ness and I really appreciate the reminder that my little mission field is as important as any far-off, exotic one.

The Bergman Family said...

Great story. Gave me chills. So thankful for our brave Veterans!

Joel and Jenn said...

I hope you are writing these down for a book or something! You know me and my historian's heart. Thanks for sharing.