Polk honors ?greatest generation?

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, February 26, 2008

About 80 people, mostly World War II veterans and their spouses, were honored and thanked in words and remembrances and the women felt good.&uot;There were nothing but smiles on our faces as we put up tables and chairs,&uot; Helen Trevathan said. &uot;Several of our guests said they had never before been honored for their service, and that surely made our effort worthwhile.&uot;Trevathan opened the event by thanking the veterans of the second world war. &uot;War is not about special battles or certain dates,&uot; she said. &uot;It is about people. We know it&squo;s about you, and those who stood with you, the so-called ordinary people who did extraordinary things. You are our heroes and heroines. Today, we offer our heartfelt gratitude.&uot;Veteran Jim Jackson gave the invocation, and veteran Holland Brady led the pledge of allegiance. Benny Pullara, Brandon Umlauf and Paul Tafoya, members of the Polk County High School band, played the national anthem.Becky Kennedy introduced the guest speaker for the day, Howard Greene, a native of Sandy Plains and Green Creek High School alumnus.&uot;Howard spent 28 years in the Army,&uot; Kennedy said, &uot;including four years as a staff sergeant in combat duty during World War II. At one given time, he spent 154 straight days in combat duty. When he retired, his rank was Chief Warrant Officer and he had earned 22 medals, including the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantry Badge and four battle stars.&uot;Greene spoke for about half an hour, describing his memories of combat duty with the Rangers.&uot;I was three years (working as a trainer) at a training camp,&uot; he recalled. &uot;I think I went through nine 13-week cycles. After that, I volunteered to go to anything. They said there was a vacancy in the Rangers. I asked, &squo;What do they do?&squo; &uot;&squo;Oh, you go to lots of USO shows and escort beauty queens,&squo; came the reply,&uot; Green said.In reality, he got to enter combat with the 5th Ranger Batallion at Omaha Beach on D-Day.From that day forward to the end of the war, Greene said, &uot;I crawled, walked or ran from Omaha Beach to the Elb River (40 miles from Berlin). That was a lot of crawling,&uot; he said. Many of the toughest assignments were given to the Rangers, he said.&uot;They would tell us, &squo;You&squo;re the elite,&squo; and they got us believing that,&uot; he said. Greene described fighting Germans in the hedge rows, fighting house to house in Auchen, Germany, fighting through the Ardennes Forest, putting on German helmets and walking around Remaggen while all the Germans were singing in the bars. He described killing enemy soldiers, taking out tanks exploding a loaded troop train and how men died in the snow in 40-below weather during the Battle of the Bulge. &uot;I&squo;m sorry to talk about gruesome stuff,&uot; he said. &uot;But all I saw was gruesome. I never did see the USO.&uot;Speaking of war, if you are in the real thing, five minutes is about all you&squo;d like to stay there. Not long.&uot;There was one bright spot in Greene&squo;s memories. That was of a six-year-old Italian boy who had traveled with the troops coming up from Italy. Greene said the soldiers adopted the boy and smuggled him aboard a transport ship for the trip home to America. He went to live on a

ranch in Texas with one soldier, and inherited that ranch where he lives today, Greene said.Cynthia McClure rose to read a poem about her father, Joe Holbert, who passed away about seven years ago. She described his memories of seeing the Dachau death camp, a memory &uot;that didn&squo;t leave him.&uot; She urged the veterans to tell their stories to their families, and not to carry them unspoken to their graves.Jim Jackson thanked the United States for what it did for veterans after the war, giving them an education through the GI Bill. Alan Duncan said he had spent time in Europe tracing the steps of Howard Greene. He presented Greene a book of pictures and a bottle of sand from Omaha Beach.As they cleaned up, the Democratic women were still buzzing about the happiness they shared.Trevathan said &uot;(I) had the feeling that I spent the afternoon in the presence of greatness, and I&squo;ll never forget it. It reminded us all that freedom isn&squo;t free.&uot;

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