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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Monday, May 28, 2007

Those Rows of Crosses - There was a Face for Every One


On this Memorial Day, just as on any other day of the year, it is difficult to look down the long rows of crosses and Stars of David in a military cemetery and remember that each represents a man who had a family, had friends, had a life. There was a face for every one of them.
Some of those faces come back to me every day. I don't call them up deliberately, they just come on their own. If none come to your mind when you look at those long rows that mark the resting place of those who fell in battle, perhaps you would like to meet just a few.
Jimmie Hewston's blond hair was crewcut in proper military fashion. No matter the situation, his smile always came easily. Wearily, sometimes, but always easily. Wherever he went, Jimmie was a favorite of the girls and the proof of that was the large number of letters in his blanket roll. In female handwriting, sometimes scented or in colored envelopes, they came from towns near every camp where the 4th Infantry Division had been stationed in the States or in England. Jimmie was 20 or 21 and a rifle squad leader. Unlike many men who are held dear by members of the opposite sex, Jimmie was a favorite of the men he served with as well. He wasn't a big man, 5-10 at most, but his heart was large enough to make every new replacement in his squad as comfortable as possible. When he laid down in a shallow hole one afternoon while a firefight raged nearby someone said, "That's a bad place to be, Jimmie." This time his familiar smile was slow to come and very weary. "I know, I just want to rest for a minute." For Jimmie, that minute stretched into eternity.
Not a single hair grew from the top of Curly Walsh's head. There was a fringe around the sides and back so when his helmet was in place a stranger would never had guessed the reason for his nickname. Curly was also a rifle squad leader. His smile was a bit on the wry side and often was accompanied by a droll remark concerning the situation, whatever it might be. He was older than most of the men in the company, somewhere around 35, and he eagerly awaited the day when he could return to his family. That day never came.
Lanky John Morgan was a private on D-Day but he soon rose to the rank of platoon sergeant. Like most men from the Appalachian hill country, John never had much to say at one time. Even so during quiet moments he liked to walk along the line and visit with old friends in other platoons. He especially enjoyed talking with another platoon sergeant, Bob Everidge, also a quiet man from Appalachia. They could sit or stand together for fifteen minute and never say a word, yet each well aware that a friend was close by. Everidge would never stoop down even when under fire. He was afraid that doing so would make his men afraid, or more afraid. He was always out front during a frontal assault although he couldn't quite keep pace with the long strides of John Morgan. All along the line you'd hear them as the men of G Company started out in the face of machine gun and rifle fire, Jimmie and Curly and Bob and John: Follow me, first squad; follow me, second platoon . . . follow me, follow me, the infantry battle cry.
Like Jimmie and Curly, Bob and John died too during the bloody summer of '44. I don't think any of them would have cared if people remembered them or not on Memorial Day. They would have much preferred to have gone on living. Still, it's good to remember. They deserve that much.

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