Chapter Eleven: 57 Years Later
Posted 20 April 2003 - 07:33 PM
Posted 20 April 2003 - 07:36 PM
The word got around the crowd and one by one the vets made their way to him. You could see his face start to redden. It was no time before he was using his shirtsleeve to wipe his tears. I got some napkins and pressed them into his hand. I heard only snippets but they all told him in one way or another that his dad was responsible for their survival. I think the vets needed to let him know that. They’d said it in the documentary bits, but the series left the viewer with such a strong impression of Sobel’s faults, the credit for honing such a sharp outfit is only grudgingly attributed to him. The vets were able to tell him in very real terms – “He’s the reason we survived.”
Forrest "Woody" Guth and Michael Sobel
Posted 20 April 2003 - 07:38 PM
And then the kids came. Extraordinary. I wish I had it on film. It was seeing the hugs that started me crying. It went on for the better part of an hour.
Michael Sobel (son of LTC Herbert M. Sobel) and David Peruginni (son of Philip P Peruginni)
Posted 20 April 2003 - 07:50 PM
George Luz, Jr. (son of George Luz, of course) and Michael Sobel (son of LTC Herbert M. Sobel)
Posted 20 April 2003 - 07:52 PM
As noted in Chapter One, Paul Sumner is the one who initiated the contact with Michael Sobel who had posted on one of the BoB sites (Paul can fill in the details) and Paul wrote him at the address he'd provided. The result of that correspondence was a conversation between Paul and Susan Smith Finn about including Michael in the upcoming reunion. Susan put Gene Guarnere and Michael Sobel together. It's a great story.
Paul Sumner (psumner), Michael Sobel and Susan Smith Finn
Posted 20 April 2003 - 08:00 PM
“I never knew about my father's wartime service. He never talked about it. He spent 20 years in the Army, and retired as a Lt. Col. I didn't think much about why he didn't talk about it, but I certainly know now. I don't really know how anyone else might have seen him, but I can tell you this. He was the best, most loving father anyone could have.” (Crowd applause.) He went on to say that his coming to this reunion was very important for him and that he would forever be grateful that he had come and that “after meeting all of the gathered guests, I know my dad would be very proud of you all.” (On their feet, the crowd WHOOPS and HOLLERS!!)
Judging by the fine man he raised (and there are two others), one is persuaded that Herbert Sobel had a good life with a lovely family. If he harbored any bitterness at all about what he perceived as his failure in losing Easy Company, perhaps he did not permit it interfere with his family. I never did get to meet Michael’s wife, but I did see him later with his child sitting on his shoulders.
Posted 20 April 2003 - 08:04 PM
I heard that Michael Sobel was there, and went to him as soon as possible. I told him that it was tremendously meaningful to me as a J e w that the first Company Commander had been Jewish; there is in some quarters a prejudice that Jews don't make good soldiers (or athletes: witness what was said to Hank Greenberg in the BoB era, and to Sandy Koufax more recently), or that our usual place is in public relations, not in combat. And there are those who say they don't see a lot of Stars of David on the cemeteries that have American soldiers who were combat casualties overseas; in part, that is because many religious Jewish families felt obligated to have the remains of their loved one brought home, even years after the fact. Profoundly, this is my country and I love it; and America -- with Britain and Russia -- was the bulwark that kept the evil of the Axis and the Nazis from winning the war and taking over the world. So even though he did not get to lead them into combat, I am deeply proud and touched that Herbert Sobel was the first man to lead Company E. At this point I stopped because we were both in tears.
We continued with his saying, "I found his dog tags, and it said "P" for Protestant. Do you know why?" and I answered, "That was a common strategy, because it was widely reported that if you were an American Jewish GI taken POW who had a "J" on the tags, to Hitler and his people, you were not entitled to the Geneva convention, only to a trip to the ovens", and Michael nodded assent. By this time the press of people was heavy and I took my leave so the next person could wish him well, just as BK has written.
That evening I took one of the little hand-painted bookmarks that I had brought along "just in case there is anybody else that I want to give something handmade to", inscribed it to him in honor of his Dad, and passed it to him, saying it was about as small as a gift could be, but that I wanted him to carry something away that I had made with my hands, that would serve as a little symbol of how his father's achievement, his plight, and the sadness of his not having connected with the men post-war, had all touched me.
And on Saturday night his speech was extremely moving. Please note from the last chapter of the BoB book that Bill Guarnere paid Herbert Sobel's dues to the group and tried to get him to come to the reunion, but was unsuccessful; and I am certain that the invitation was sincere, not a trap or a setup to mock him. Now there was a special rightness in the son of Herbert Sobel being introduced by the son of the very much alive Bill Guarnere. And if savage humor is the mark of acceptance -- and it sure seemed that way in all of Gene Guarnere's many zingers -- then Michael Sobel must have felt very good, for the introduction among other things included praise of Michael's wife and baby, with the offhand half-aside comment straight into the microphone, "Though Michael's wife has told me the baby is not his". I groaned, and laughed, and realized that this paratrooper who is also the son of a paratrooper, was purposely not using kid gloves with young Sobel, for that would ensure a distance that is precisely the opposite of what was being sought and given. ~~ HS
How many times have we said -- yet another result from BoB to be grateful for, inspired by, moved by – it’s just extraordinary the reach of this very human and universal story. BK
Posted 20 April 2003 - 08:17 PM
Posted 20 April 2003 - 10:02 PM
Posted 21 April 2003 - 07:11 AM
Posted 21 April 2003 - 12:58 PM
To stand before his father's men and hear their applause and thanks...
Not enough thanks and respect are given in this world. Most of the time it's just backhanded insults and ambiguous put-downs.
Posted 21 April 2003 - 01:49 PM
Posted 22 April 2003 - 08:19 PM
I love redemption and connection stories--especially when a truth is revealed past something i've read.
...and we got to see a picture of our Pauly! ...
keep 'em coming, Tiny Little Lady!
Posted 20 May 2003 - 08:14 AM
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