Jay Dell Butler, Army Infantryman, World War II, Germany
“Our two machine guns and the company I was attached to were assigned to walk right straight toward town without shooting back. The other two companies were to go around on the west side and walk through the town shooting from the hip at anything that moved. This was at eleven o’clock at night. So we started toward that town and got pretty close to it. Then the other companies started walking through the town, shooting from the hip. When you get every man shooting, it doesn’t matter what he saw, he just shot.
“You could hear the roar of war. You just can’t imagine that sound.
“I saw the flame of his rifle, and with the rest of them (my company), I jumped in the ditch to get out of the rain of bullets. They were popping over our heads like firecrackers. As we got up to go, I looked to the right and saw another rifleman shooting at us. I saw the flame of his rifle.
“I got the bullet.
“Turning my head to the right saved me because the bullet touched my jaw, entering through the top of my shoulder. It went through me, but on it’s way– it broke my collar bone and top rib, my rib puncturing my left lung. The bullet split the shoulder blade in my back. So there I was in that ditch full of water. I couldn’t get up. I don’t know why, shock or something. The water was ice cold. Everybody had to leave me.
‘Lieutenant, I’m hit.’
‘Ahuh,’ he says.
“But they had to leave me, and I understood that. I didn’t feel bad that they’d go off and leave me out there in the middle of the field, because I knew they had to keep going. So I was left out there alone, in the dark, in that ice water, and I couldn’t see anything.”
We gather, singing songs, pledging our allegiance, and professing our gratitude. In our small town, it’s a community event, complete with music, speeches, essay contests. We are grateful.
But time lengthens the gap between the brutality of war, the history of our freedom. Besides those of us that know active military or grew up in a family of service members, most see it only in the pages of a history textbook, the portrayals of Pearl Harbor and the like.
War is ugly, and no matter how it ends– there are always consequences, far reaching ones.
Have you lived with the consequences? Do you think about the horror these boys (and now women) face(d)?
My Grandpa, the man who gave the account above, lived with the consequences everyday. You see, one of his arms was left paralyzed from the war.
He married after, even had six children, without the use of an arm.
He farmed, he worked as a butcher and custodian. Without the use of an arm.
True grit is rare, almost extinct in our day of technology and entitlement. But, I saw it. I saw my grandpa work in his meat shop (that he built with his own hand), heard stories of him lifting 350 lb. carcasses from the truck to his meat hook, all without the use of an arm. You see, he made do to survive. He took care of his family.
Did the war ever leave his mind, his memory? I don’t know, but by the time he was old, confined to a wheelchair, he spoke of the memories, the horror, as if it had happened only yesterday. War took so much more than his arm. Grandpa didn’t play the victim, but it didn’t matter. I knew it took more– possibilities for his future, serenity in sleep, double-armed embraces of his loved ones.
It’s a lot to take in. But we should try. We should try to understand the sacrifices, the purposeful placement in harms way of our veterans, all in pursuit of protecting our freedoms, our America.
Gratitude and debt don’t seem enough. But it will have to do.
We honor those that fought, and continue to fight, for our freedom, for our America. “Thank you” isn’t nearly enough. We love you. We pray for you and yours.