Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Joe Earned His 63 Bonus Years the Hard Way

It didn't make the headlines and it wasn't on the TV news but another old soldier, one who did more for his country than most Americans, recently stood his final roll call. Joe Medeiros was a quiet man with a slow smile when I first met him on a Normandy battlefield. Our platoon sergeant, Eddie Wolfe, was accustomed to saying, "You're a good boy, Joe," but after a few weeks of bitter combat he had to admit, "I guess you're not a boy any more."
Joe was a 19-year-old rifleman when he waded ashore with the 4th Infantry Division on D-Day so the odds against him reaching 82 were long. But he did. He was a year older than me so we were just a couple of young guys caught up in a slaughterhouse. Just making it one day at a time was all we could do so we would have laughed if someone had said, "Don't worry, you'll both be around for another 62 or 63 years."
Joe and I shared a foxhole some nights, would talk a little but not too much because there wasn't a whole lot to say. We got to know each other well so I feel bad about spelling his name Medaros in the book Normandy 1944. My excuse is that I couldn't recall ever seeing his name written down.
Joe wouldn't have minded my mistake, I'm sure of that. He never uttered one word of complaint, at least not in my presence, and he certainly had just cause to complain because he had been handed the rottenist job of all. Deliver direct fire upon the enemy, that was the assignment, and don't do it from a plane or an artillery position well to the rear but instead the hard way, close up and face to face. Joe didn't take pleasure in the job because under normal conditions he wouldn't have been a killer. He may even have remembered the commandment that says Thou Shalt Not Kill and doesn't include any qualifiers.
Those who read the aforementioned book may recall an incident when Joe and I were sitting close together with our legs dangling over the edge of our foxhole. A stray artillery shell came in and exploded a short distance away. A large shell fragment passed between our heads and left a tiny red line on Joe's upper lip, just a nick like you'd get from a razor or a paper cut. The fragment was long and jagged and it passed between our heads vertically. Had it done so horizontally one or both of us would have been killed, probably decapitated. Joe touched the cut and after that you could no longer see the red line. We grinned at each other but neither of us said a word because near death experiences were too commonplace to merit talking about.
Then there was the day a bunch of letters fell out of a German's pocket as he was shot several times. We stayed there for a short while so a photo in one of the envelopes was passed from man to man. In it the man lying dead close by was shown with his wife and two young daughters. Eddie Wolfe understood some German so he read the commonplace letter aloud. At the bottom of the page one of the girls had added a note asking her father to hurry home and telling him she loved him.
Eddie reached for another letter but Joe said, "Don't read any more, Eddie."
That's the way Joe Medieros was. Quiet, thoughtful, sensitive. In later years he had two daughters of his own. I'm sure he never mentioned it to them or anyone else, but I'll bet there were times when he looked at his little girls and remembered that other young girl who asked her father to hurry home. Knowing Joe, I'm certain of that. It's just the way he was.


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