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20/365 – Honoring – Bill and Jack Morris

March 19, 2012

Newton County resident Bill Morris learned about Pearl Harbor at a movie theater in Social Circle.  He recalled, “Uncle Sam pointed a finger at us from the screen and said, ‘I need you!’  Well, when we turned 18 he got us.”

Born in Bethlehem, GA in 1924, Morris, 4 of his brothers, plus 2 brothers-in-law, served in WWII.  Morris said, “My twin brother and I were inseparable but the army sent me to Camp Crowder, MO and sent Jack to California.  Our mother was seething.”  Mrs. Morris wrote President Roosevelt and Secretary of War Stimson demanding the twins be reunited.  They were.  Bill and Jack fought the entire war side by side.

Jack Morris, left and twin brother Billy Morris

The Morris twins learned the art of stringing communications wire and mastered heavy weapons at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.  “It’s not Missouri, it’s the state of Misery, if you ask me,” he said.

In Feb ’44 the twins boarded a Liberty ship for Birmingham, England.  “We had a 2½ ton truck, our equipment, and I had a case of mumps,” Morris said.  “I didn’t report to sick bay until we set sail.  Jack and I were stayin’ together!”

After intense specialized training in England, the Morris twins boarded a LST and sailed across the English Channel on D-Day +1.  “It was June 7, ’44,” he said.  “We were among 5,000 ships at Omaha Beach and for some reason that night every gun in the fleet opened up.  Jack and I had been taught to ‘get low and get in a hole’ but there ain’t no foxholes on a ship!  The firepower was awesome.”

June 8, early morning: the twins, their crew, and 2½ ton communications truck hit Omaha Beach.  “We strung wire beyond the rocky bluffs,” he said, “The bodies bothered us, hundreds of them, stacked like cords of wood.”  Army engineers suddenly told Morris and his crew to ‘back off’ to a safe area.  “Land mines,” he said.  “We moved far enough, I suppose, before things got real ugly.  A mine detonated, killing the engineers.”

At dusk lay danger.  “I posted guards but the continuous gunfire kept us awake all night,” he said.  “We slept in foxholes with tents pitched over them.  We were mavericks; stringing wire wherever needed.  I guess we looked strange, too, since we’d cut our hair into Mohawks for the invasion.”

Stringing wire from Omaha Beach to the Cherbourg Peninsula, dodging German 88mm artillery, returning north through France, Morris and crew eventually ended up in Belgium.  “We’d slept in ditches, mud holes, hid behind trees, seldom even saw a town, but in Belgium they put us up in a castle that Kaiser Wilhelm used during WWI, our first dry floor in 3 months,” Morris said with a smile.

In Dec, ’44 while stringing wire at the German border in freezing cold and heavy snow, Morris and crew heard frantic orders from an American officer, “Move out, move out, we’re being overrun!”  Approaching German Panzer tanks signaled the Battle of the Bulge.

Morris recalled, “We hustled back, but recruits fresh out of basic were ordered to stay with ineffective bazookas to stop the Panzers.  Those boys didn’t make it out.”

Overcast skies, sub-zero cold; and thick snow worked to the Germans’ advantage.

“Our planes were grounded,” Morris said.  “But on Dec 23 we awoke to a beautiful blue sky.  Then they came, thousands of them, filling the sky with contrails.  Our flyboys got the job done; the Battle of the Bulge was over.”

Morris recalled stringing wire on the German side of the Rhine River.  “We were on the river bank,” he said.  “Suddenly bullets were ‘pinging’ off a brick wall behind us.  Well, we got low and got in a hole!”  American sharpshooters on the opposite bank were shooting at German mines floating down the Rhine River.  “Those boys were either lousy shots or their bullets were ricocheting off the water.  Let’s hope it was ricochets!”

Morris and his crew were with American forces when they liberated the infamous concentration camp at Buchenwald.  Morris softly recalled, “From a mile away you could smell it.  What looked to be humans stumbled around like skeletal zombies. We found the meat hook conveyor line that ran bodies to furnaces, trenches filled with…that’s enough, I suppose.  I’ve tried to forget Buchenwald, but it’s impossible.”

After Hitler’s demise, the twins and crew boarded a troop ship in Marseilles and set sail for the South Pacific island of Okinawa to train for the invasion of Japan.  “We slept on the beach our first night,” he said.  “In the morning about 75 Jap soldiers walked out of the jungle and surrendered to us.  They had American cigarettes, C-rations, even American hand grenades.  We sure were glad they were in a mood to surrender!”  The lives of the Morris twins and feasibly a million other American casualties were avoided by two atomic bombs.  Morris said, “Both wars were over.  My brother and I were ready to see Georgia again.”

First Seattle; a train across America, a locomotive whistle blowing full blast from Chattanooga all the way into Atlanta in celebration, hitch-hiking a ride to Monroe Street in Social Circle, and home.  Morris recalled, “I remember our mothers’ welcoming words to this day, ‘I’m so proud of you boys.’”

Morris took advantage of the benefits he’d earned overseas, finishing high school before attending business school for accounting.  His last job before retiring from Sunbelt Builders in 1989 was completion of the Ginn Motor Company in Covington.

“I hope America never forgets the sacrifices,” Morris said.  “The stacks of bodies at Hurtgen Forest, the paratrooper that crawled out of flooded fields behind Omaha Beach where he died in place, a man’s jet black hair turning white in 2 days, I saw too much and have too many memories, but the lord let me live, and I live for him.”

In 1998, 79 surviving veterans of Company B 32nd Signal Construction Battalion attended their reunion.  In 2008, there were 7.

 

Pete Mecca – http://www.aveteransstory@gmail.com

Pete Mecca – Vietnam veteran, columnist, and free-lance writer

If you’d like to be considered for one of my featured newspapers articles

entitled “A Veteran’s Story” email me at: aveteransstory@gmail.com

You can review my articles at: rockdalecitizen.com  or  newtoncitizen.com

Click on ‘community’ then click on ‘military news’

Site Update

March 13, 2012

Please forgive me for letting so much time lapse between posts. I started a new job last week and just have to get a schedule set then I will be back to regular updates. Thank you all for your patience and please continue to send in your stories.

 

 

In Honor of US Navy Capt. Carroll LeFron aka Neptunus Lex

March 7, 2012

I received some sad news this morning from Milblogging.com I received some sad news earlier today that retired TOPGUN pilot US Navy Capt. Carroll LeFon, better known as Lex of the military blog Neptunus Lex, was killed Tuesday when a jet he was flying crashed at Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada. Last year when he won Best U.S. Military Veteran Blog. You can visit his blog to read more about him, they have a post there about his passing and have left comments open for people to talk among themselves and pay their respects.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family. Our hearts are heavy with the loss of another great soldier. Rest in Peace Carroll.

19/365 – Honoring – Carl Hyde

March 6, 2012

Born atop the Ryo Mountain Ridge in Gordon County, GA, Conyers resident Carl Hyde was 2 years old when his farming family moved to Atlanta.  “My father and brother went into business,” Hyde said.  “But when dad passed away we ended up farming again in Jackson and Morgan Counties.” A graduate of Morgan County High School, Hyde and all 5 of his brothers were drafted during WWII.  The oldest Hyde boy lost his life during the Battle of the Bulge.

Carl Hyde

“I was only 16 when the war started,” Hyde said.  “So after high school I moved to Savannah to attend vocational school.”  Working as a soda jerk in a local drug store to augment expenses, Hyde mastered airplane mechanics and eventually earned $128.00 per week.  “Shoot, that was fantastic money back then,” he said.  A good son, Hyde paid his mother’s debts before joining his siblings in uniform.  “I talked mom into signing papers as soon as I turned 17,” he said.

Carl Hyde chose the United States Marines.  He said, “I remember my first day at Parris Island, standing there in formation wondering ‘what the heck have I gotten myself into’?”  After qualifying as a sharpshooter, Hyde received laid-back barracks duty while the rest of his platoon pulled mess duty.  “Sharpshootin’ wasn’t hard for an ole’ Georgia farm boy like me,” he said with a smile.  “After graduating from basic training, Sergeant Lathrop, our drill instructor, teased us, ‘You young’uns will be gettin’ your butts shot off while I’m sittin’ here drinkin’ beer!’  We’d get him back for that one.”

Sent home for a 10 day leave, Hyde eventually traveled via train to San Diego to board a troop ship with the 3rd Marine Division.  Destination: retake the island of Guam.

“I had special weapons training,” Hyde said.  “I drove an open-top half-track with 4 gunners on each corner manning 50 caliber machine guns, but we found out on Guam an open-top wasn’t beneficial on safety.  The Japs lobbed hand grenades in, and we threw them back out.  That’s sort of risky.”

Their half-track would be called into service to wipe out enemy fighting positions, normally pillboxes armed with machine guns or heavy weapons.  Moving back after one engagement, Hyde got the surprise of his life.  “Here comes my ole’ drill instructor, Sgt. Lathrop, marching into battle,” Hyde recalled, grinning.  “I screamed at him, Hey, Sarge, while you’re up there gettin’ your butt shot off I’ll be back here drinkin’ beer!  Payback is hell, they say.”

That night as Hyde backed the half-track into a protective cover of jungle growth, he felt a series of bumps under the treads.  Not thinking anything of it, plus under orders not to move the half-track after dusk, Hyde and crew settled into a meal of K-rations and a little shut-eye.  “An appalling smell awoke us,” he said.  They’d backed over 7 dead Jap soldiers, obviously left in the jungle by their comrades.  Guam was considered “secured” after 5 days of desperate fighting.

The Marines of the 3rd Division were told their next destination would be easy, no more than a 3 day push, and they may not be needed at all, on a rocky black sand Pacific island called Iwo Jima.  “We were supposed to land on D-Day plus 3,” Hyde said.  “Well, we were on that meat-grinder the 2nd day.  My, God, what we saw, what we witnessed.  I still have trouble talking about it.”

On Iwo Jima, Hyde and crew had a full-tracked 105mm howitzer, still manned by the same 5 guys.  They fought across Iwo Jima for 31 straight days of combat.  “We’d be called up, take out a pillbox, blast a rock formation or tunnel, then pull back.  At night we tried to sleep.  I don’t remember sleeping, and what I do remember about Iwo Jima I’ve tried to forget.”

Hyde and crew witnessed the famous flag-raising on Mount Suribachi.  “After all the blood-letting on that island, ole’ Glory suddenly appeared fluttering in the wind atop Mount Suribachi.  Good lord, you should have heard all the ship horns and hollering that went on in celebration.”  Pausing, Hyde said softly, “I’ve seen the American flag burned on TV by our own citizens.  If they’d been on Iwo Jima, well, they would understand the cost of that so-called free speech.”

Battle-weary and battle-hardened, the 3rd Marine Division sailed back to Guam to prepare for the up-coming invasion of Japan.  “Those two atomic bombs saved us,” Hyde said.  “Some people want to apologize for that.  Are you kidding me?  The war needed to end; the suffering and dying had to stop.  We did the right thing.”

Instead of home, Hyde was shipped to China.  “We were still needed in case the peace didn’t hold,” he said.  “We were posted at a dinky outpost, but could at least go to a nearby town for food and drink.”  Several times while walking into town the marines got caught between firefights of the Nationalist and Communist Chinese.  Hyde recalled, “As soon as they saw we were Americans, they stopped the battle.  We’d walk by; then they’d start killing each other again.  A little crazy, I know, but so is war.”

All but one of the Hyde boys made it home.  Carl Hyde eventually retired from 31 years with the GM Company in Doraville.  His words of wisdom: “Every kid when they turn 18 should go through Parris Island, whether they serve or not.  The country would be 100% better!”

Pete Mecca – http://www.aveteransstory@gmail.com

Pete Mecca – Vietnam veteran, columnist, and free-lance writer

If you’d like to be considered for one of my featured newspapers articles

entitled “A Veteran’s Story” email me at: aveteransstory@gmail.com

You can review my articles at: rockdalecitizen.com  or  newtoncitizen.com

Click on ‘community’ then click on ‘military news’

Body Identified as Marine, Janice Rubendall

March 5, 2012

May you rest in peace Janice, you will not be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time.

The coroner said the Marine’s tattoos helped to make a preliminary identification of her remains. “We compared the tattoos with the tattoos described to us (by the family),” he said.

The body was recovered from the riverbank along West Indian Lane in West Norriton Sunday afternoon. Rubendall, of Wayne Avenue in Lower Providence, had not been seen by her family since Jan. 4. An organized search for the missing woman in mid-February yielded no significant finds. Hofman, who is working with Naval Criminal Intelligence Service for further confirmation of the identity, will continue efforts to get a usable fingerprint from the woman’s badly decomposed body. Hofman said more investigation is needed to help determine how Rubendall actually died.

http://www.timesherald.com/article/20120305/NEWS01/120309806/-1/news

If anyone has any information about what happened to Janice please contact the authorities. The family deserves answers.

Thank you all for your help in spreading the word about the disappearance. Thank you for your kind words and continued prayers.

Update on Missing Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom

March 4, 2012

Update #3 on Missing Veteran – The body has been identified as Janice Rubendall. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time. Rest in peace Janice, you will not be forgotten.

Update #2 on Missing Veteran - I just wanted to note that nothing has been confirmed. An autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow, we should know more then. Please keep the family in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you.

Update on Missing Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom

A body found along the bank of the Schuylkill River on Sunday afternoon has been tentatively identified as Janice Rubendall, the former U.S Marine whose car was found abandoned near the Betzwood Bridge in early January.

Robert Rubendall, Janice’s father, said Sunday evening that Lower Providence Township Police had visited him at his home to tell him of the discovery.

A resident of the Port Indian neighborhood in West Norriton discovered the body “wedged between a boat dock and the shoreline,” Rubendall said. “They’re pretty sure it’s her.”

http://perkiomenvalley.patch.com/articles/found-body-may-be-missing-iraq-vet

18/365 – Honoring the Hedrick Family – Four Generations of Service

March 4, 2012

  

Celebrating my family’s service to the U.S. Army.  A century of active and in-active federal government service. 

“Always remember those who protect and preserve our independence”

“I can’t help but get choked up every time I think about my family.”

Serving in:  World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War and in the countries Germany, Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan, Afghanistan and others.

By: Janet (Hedrick) Stewart

As a young teenager I wrote an article appearing in the Morristown Gazette-Mail reporting the military career of my brothers and how proud I was of their service and commitment, with another article in The Rogersville Review in 2009 honoring their continued service that included two nephews.  After seeing the article request for honoring our veterans 365 days a year, I had to tell their story again.

My father Pryor Hedrick was born in Grainger County on February 14, 1897.  He married Bertha Noe, in 1916.  Noe was the daughter of William Arthur Noe and Minnie Bell Phillips.  They had three children Kenneth Hedrick, Velma Grace Hedrick and Francis Hedrick.  Parents and children are all deceased.

In 1938, Pryor Hedrick married my mother, Betty Shockley.  She was the daughter of George and Lillie Shockley.  They had five children, Shirley Hedrick (Johnson), Donald Hadrick, Judy Hedrick (Drinnon), Darrell Hedrick and Janet Hedrick (Stewart).

Kenneth Hedrick in Uniform

My oldest brother Kenneth Hedrick enlisted in the Army in 1937 and retired in 1965 with 28 years’ of  service.  He served with the 18th Combat Team 32nd Field Artillery Battalion, 1st Infantry Division in North Africa and Europe.  At the beginning of World War II he was stationed at Fort Devens, Massachusetts.  He was selected to become part of the American Expeditionary Force, commanded by General George Patton.

Kenneth was part of the invasion of France on D-Day June 6, 1944.  He earned a Bronze Star on D-Day while landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.  Kenneth also served in Korea during the Korean War.  He was awarded the Good Conduct Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the Army of Occupation Medal with German Clasp; the Victory Medal; the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with seven battle stars for Tunisia, Sicily, Normandy, North France, Rhineland, Arden-Alsace and Central Europe.   Kenneth also received the National Defense Service Award; the Distinguished Unit Emblem, the French Fourragere; the Belgium Fourragere; the Army Commendation Medal, and the Korean Service Medal and the Korean Campaign Medal.

Kenneth died on December 26, 1972 in Johnson City, Tennessee.  He is buried at Mountain Home National Cemetery in Johnson City.

My brother Donald Hadrick (different spelling because it was misspelled in military documents) joined the Army in 1958.  He retired in 1994, with 20 years active duty and 16 years inactive service working for the Department of the Army, a combined 36 years service.

Don in Uniform 1972

Don served two combat tours in Vietnam. His first tour was with the 1st Infantry Division, the same division, my brother Kenneth served with twenty-three years earlier.  Don’s first tour was December 1965 until December 1966.  He was wounded in action on Easter Sunday 1966 and again on Thanksgiving Day November 24, 1966. My sister walked for miles to my parent’s home to inform us of my brother’s injuries.  If you’ve had this happen in your family, you know this is something you will never forget.  I can still remember standing in the house screaming and crying.  Still to this day, it is a horrible feeling just to imagine what a veteran feels.  Military families will never forget being notified but their wounds go much deeper than just the obvious injuries, feelings they carry for the rest of their life, physically, but more so mentally, some much worse than others.

Don was evacuated to the U.S. Army Hospital in Fort Ord, California where he stayed until released.

In July 1969 he received orders to return to Vietnam and joined the 4th Infantry Division.  He was wounded by shrapnel from a hand grenade in January 1970.  He returned home in August 1970.

Don’s awards include; two Bronze Star Medals for Valor and two Bronze Star Medals for service; the Combat Infantry Badge, the Purple Heart, the Air Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, three Army Accommodations Medals; the National Defense Service Medal; the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; seven awards of the Good Conduct Medal, the Vietnamese Campaign Medal with six battle stars, the Vietnamese Service Medal, the Vietnamese Civic Actions Medal; The Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry; and the Vietnam Wound Medal.

Don lives on Daniel Island, in Charleston, South Carolina with his wife Bobbie and is enjoying his retirement.

My nephew, Dennis Franklin Hadrick, son of Donald Hadrick served in the US Army from 1981 until 1994. He rose to the rank of Sergeant First Class in the Gulf War. He served as forward observer for the Artillery in the Third Armored Division.  His military awards include the Bronze Star for Service; the Meritorious Service Medal; three awards of the Army Accommodations Medal; four awards of the Army Achievement Medal; the Good Conduct Medal. The National Defense Service Medal, the Southeast Asia Service Medal with three bronze service stars; the Professional Development Medal with #3, the Oversea Service Medal for service in Korea and Germany, the Kuwait Liberation Medal, and the Army Service Medal.

Dennis in Uniform

Dennis is currently employed by the Department of State in Washington, D.C; as Program Manager in the Bureau of Political and Military Affairs.  He is the Department of State’s representative for the de-mining program. Dennis won Officer of the Year Award for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs in the U.S. Department of State.  Dennis was selected because of his consistent humanitarian mine action and important contributions in promoting efforts around the world, particularly in countries just emerging from conflict, such as; Georgia and Iraq. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered remarks and presented the award to Dennis in October 2009.  Dennis has 13 years active service.  Seventeen 17 years inactive service with the federal government creating and managing conventional weapons destruction programs around the world, including Iraq, Jordan, Afghanistan and other countries in that section of the world.  He has visited over 125 countries in his travels.

Dennis lives in Woodbridge, Virginia with his wife Susan.

My nephew, Kenneth Brian Hadrick, son of Donald Hadrick served with the US Army for 6 years from 1983 to 1989.  Ken graduated early from Sacramento

Ken in Uniform

California High School.  He served in Europe and with the 101st Airmobile Division at Fort Campbell Kentucky.  After leaving the military, he returned to Sacramento to begin working in the cable construction business.  His occupation has taken him to Reno, Nevada, Salt Lake City, Utah and to Denver, Colorado where he now works for Tetra Tech.  He continues his service to Veterans as the Commander of an American Legion in Thornton, Colorado and performs military burial rites for deceased Veterans.

Ken resides in Thornton, Colorado with his wife JeNet.

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