Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches

AN AMERICAN GI

May 23 2008

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Mr. Speaker, standing on the beaches of Normandy, he found himself silent. Like a scene ripped from the movie Saving Private Ryan, this American GI was overwhelmed with memories. Memories so vivid, so real that in an instant he was a soldier again in the 7th Army, surviving the Battle of the Bulge, fighting through the Cities of Aachen, Stuttgart, Cologne, and Bonn. The graves before him transcended time, taking him back in history to a time when freedom was on the line.

He was born in the 1920s. He grew up in the Depression of the thirties, and he grew up poor like most rural American children. Fresh vegetables were grown in the family garden behind the small frame house. His mother made sandwiches for school out of homemade bread. Store-bought bread was for the rich. He grew up belonging to the Boy Scouts, playing the trumpet in the high school band and going to church almost every Sunday.

In 1944, this 18-year-old country boy that had never been more than 50 miles from home finally found himself going through basic training in the United States Army at Camp Walters in Texas. After that, he rode the train with hundreds of other young teenagers to New York City for the hazardous ocean trip on a cramped liberty ship to fight in the great World War II.

No amount of training could have prepared him for what he was about to experience. As a teenager, he and thousands like him put life on the line for freedom. He saw the concentration camps at Dachau and the victims of the Nazis. This horror gave him a clearer understanding of why America was at war. He saw incredible numbers of other teenage Americans buried in graves throughout France, but like so many of his generation, he really never discussed the details, only saying that the real heroes were the ones that never came home from Europe.

Some 64 years after the war, my hero stood before the monument at Normandy with the thousands of white crosses and Stars of David and paid tribute to his heroes. The price of freedom was enormous, the memories of the sacrifices made were overwhelming. Amidst the whirlwind of imagery flashing before his eyes, my dad began to recall life before the war and what victory in Europe meant for Americans--and what freedom means today.

After Germany surrendered, he went back to Fort Hood, Texas, expecting to be re-equipped for the land invasion of Japan. It was there he met Mom at a Wednesday night prayer meeting church service, but before he could be shipped out to Japan, the Japanese surrendered and the war was over. Not too long after that, he opened a DX service station where he pumped gas, sold tires, fixed cars, and began a family.

Deciding that he needed to go to college, he moved to West Texas and enrolled in a small Christian college called Abilene Christian College. He and his wife and two small children lived in an old converted Army barracks with other such families. He supported us by working nights at KRBC radio and climbing telephone poles for "Ma Bell."

He finished college, became an engineer, and worked 40-plus years for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in Houston, Texas. He turned down a promotion and a transfer to New York City because it wasn't Texas, and as he said it was "no place to raise a family." Mom and Dad still live in Houston not far from where I grew up.

After his recent trip to Normandy, he opened up a little more about the war, still humble about his contributions, but looking back on the significance of victory through the eyes of an 82-year-old man. Don't get me wrong, Mr. Speaker, he hasn't mellowed at all in these years. He still rants and raves about the east coast media, and he has a strong opinion on politics and today's fight fo