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Chapter Two: Ordinary Men


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#1 homefront41

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 11:09 AM

My first introduction to anything about fighting the World War II was at the age of eight when my mother told me about the guys who had held Bastogne in that unbearably frosty winter and had the audacity to tell the Germans, “Nuts!” So I approached meeting some of those men with the wide-eyed wonder of the kid who was so enthralled with their story.

Wednesday I bounded down to the hotel as fast as I could move. Many more men and their families had arrived and it was a dazzling scene under a large tented area in the Atrium when I got there. Bill and Babe were already happily ensconced in chairs I was convinced they’d never vacate all day. (I was right, too.) As other vets wandered in, the chatter got more animated.

Max and Lucy Clark were among the first I met on this morning. As with all of the Company, they were so kind and pleasant with all who visited with them. It was rumored that the Sink Grail would make an appearance at this Reunion and when I said I’d seen a terrific article about it on the web, they both wanted to see it. My first assignment when I returned home was to print and send it to them.

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#2 homefront41

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 11:11 AM

A producer from a local network affiliate arrived with instructions to get some footage in the can for the early news. So, with Bill standing behind leaning on his sticks, about 10 of the Easy men collected to circle at one table. These guys can still work as a unit. The media at Chambersburg in September weren’t clued in on the story, but this fellow knew who he had in front of him. The vets gave him the business anyhow. Any chance to needle has great entertainment value for them.

By now the vets are old hands at this sort of thing, so it was pretty routine, but still they gave the guy the business, word jousting with him and cracking themselves up. They all gave their names and a sound bite about what they get from meeting at reunions. Rod Bain deadpanned after stating his name that he welcomes any excuse to leave Alaska for a sunny clime. The entire assemblage cracked up!

Around the table: Norm Nietzke, Joe Lesniewski, Earl “One Lung” McClung

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#3 homefront41

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 11:13 AM

Forrest Guth, Wild Bill Guarnere, Rod Bain

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#4 homefront41

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 11:20 AM

Johnny Martin and Hank Zimmerman.

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Edited by homefront41, 05 May 2004 - 08:19 PM.


#5 homefront41

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 11:21 AM

Hank Zimmerman and Sal Bellino. The Laughing Boys!!

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Edited by homefront41, 05 May 2004 - 08:19 PM.


#6 homefront41

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 11:23 AM

One Lung: “We found ourselves in a situation – this generation today are in the same situation. We grew close … I have a feeling for these guys I don’t have for anyone else.”

Guth: “It’s important that we spread the word about FREEDOM.”

Wild Bill: “Something draws us together – I don’t know what it is – ’42 to ’02, still together.”

Bain: “These are my best friends. You have best friends in grade school, or high school, or college. But this is the bunch right here.”

Wild Bill: “You don’t know what freedom is until you lose it. We saw that in Europe.”

Bain: “This is a great country and we’ve got to keep it strong. In fact we’re in a war now, though you wouldn’t know it.

Martin: “Ambrose brought us all together. Ambrose is real sick now and we hope for the best.” We all wondered how he was doing, but no one had any recent information. (That was October 9, 2002.)

I went around the table and took some group shots of two and three and they chattered and teased and played with me the whole time. Susan said she thinks because I was close enough to their age to appreciate the good-natured flirting, but not old enough to take a tumble for them. They just knocked themselves out, like they’ve always been, cocky paratroopers at heart. After that, I felt comfortable to just plunge in, stick out my hand and introduce myself. I told them that I learned about them when I was 8 and that they’d been “my boys” since 1949. I even managed to say that without tears. Well, sort of.

An aside … When I introduced myself to Forrest, I invoked LFOD / Comrade Tonia’s name and he just beamed, as did Harriet later when I met her. You are theirs for life, Tonia, and you’re exactly right – they are really terrific people.

#7 kat

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 02:46 PM

Incredible is all I can say!!!

kat

#8 bamapt

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 04:11 PM

I'm not sure where this question should go. Do you know how they came back stateside? I mean, did they come back as a unit on a boat or as individuals? Did they all "outprocess" at the same place? I've always heard that one of the lessons we learned from Vietnam was that the way we deployed troops and brought them home as individuals was psychologically horrible and that it was done differently in WWII. Just wondering.

michelle

#9 Kiwiwriter

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Posted 04 March 2003 - 02:29 PM

What a great story and set of pictures! I'm green with envy! :D

#10 JBCurtin

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Posted 12 March 2003 - 09:05 PM

BK,

Thank you so much for sharing your P.O.V. from the October reunion. I am so glad you got to meet those guys! Am I jealous? Of course! But there are very few of us BoB devotees who deserve it more.

Joan

#11 cias

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Posted 28 March 2003 - 01:25 AM

David
We' re in the Premiere Forums. We' re all green. lol.

BK

I saw Forrest in November at the DC Convention Center. Almost as soon as we started talking he mentioned Tonia' s situatio. He was very concerned. To meet the veterans of Easy is one thing but when they start recognizing you it' s another. He had his American flag tie on that day.

Gary

#12 Frank_Slegers_Holland

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Posted 09 April 2003 - 12:37 PM

Great pictures BK. Are these in the WBG.com gallery as well??

C U
Frank

#13 Irishmaam

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Posted 22 January 2004 - 01:04 PM

I have spent the morning reading this thread and I have to say this is just priceless. I am so in awe of you fortunate ones who have met so many of these fine men & their families, and to be part of one of these families has to be quite wonderful. I am amazed Thank you so much for sharing I am at chapter 10 now I hope to finish today.......
Cindy

#14 galesport

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Posted 04 May 2004 - 09:14 PM

BK,
How fortunate you are to be able to interact with outstanding men. It must give you pause every time meet with them. Today at work I met a veteranc and he had on a jacket with his ship on it. He was on the heavy cruiser, Toledo, which he told me with pride in his voice. I told him thanks for his service and shook his hand. He told me thank you and looked me right in the eye and his appreciation for I had said was genuine. What a rush, it's like that everytime I meet and thank these guys.

Geoff

#15 homefront41

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Posted 05 May 2004 - 08:30 PM

For some reason, Geoff, I was not so tongue-tied meeting these men. I had been invited, after all. But of all the veterans I've ever met, these men and their war was more familiar to me than any other.

Of course the men had no idea of my connection to the gathering. So it was an easy entre to tell them they had been my childhood heroes. And they and their wives made it very easy to visit with them. A once in a lifetime experience that still dazzles me when I think about it.

When I meet other veterans, I can do little more than mutter "thank you" and tear up. I don't think that will ever change. These men just tap into an emotional sum of things I learned as a youngster and that's just fine.

I'm so honored to have met the Easy men and so many other veterans over the years. If you ever have even the possibility of a chance -- make it happen. You will not forget it and you'll have a treasure to pass on to your kids. BK




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