Wednesday, June 15, 2011

War Heroes...Celebrating One of Our Own

Any one who serves in Armed Forces has put their life on the line for God and Country, for the United States of America is a hero, should be both honored and respected. There have been times when we as citizens have forgotten that simple lesson, most notable of them being the Vietnam War which many of us, including myself opposed, though I still even then respected our troops who fought for our country, my Uncle Jack being one of them.

I grew up in a different time (though loath at times to admit it as it makes me feel old), a time when civics classes were a integral part of the lessons, where saying the "Lord's Prayer", and the "Pledge of Allegiance" were something done with reverence for both God, and for Country.

We watched movies like, "Battle of the Bulge" (1965) with Henry Fonda and Robert Shaw, "The Dirty Dozen" (1967) starring Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, and Donald Sutherland, "Kelly's Heroes" (1970) with Clint Eastwood and Donald Sutherland. We had the "Green Beret" with larger than life John "The Duke" Wayne, and later on after the end of the Vietnam War, "The Deer Hunter" (1978) starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep which was a very different kind of a war movie than most of us in that time had grown up with. We honored our soldiers, those with us, and those who had made the ultimate sacrifice in serving/protecting the United States of America, and almost to a one, every young boy grew up dreaming about wearing the uniform of our Armed Forces.

Come Memorial Day Weekend, we had our BarBQ's, or joined others in a community wide picnic, and everyone knew that Memorial Day was special. Every porch flew the Red, White and Blue, as together communities celebrated our own local men/women in uniform, paid honor to those who had served, and those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy here in the United States of America. Those marching down the street young and old, American citizens who had served in far off lands, had fought in "World War I", "World War II" and the "Korean War" were our heroes, our villages, hamlets, towns and cities proud to claim them.

Many of these brave soldiers would say, "I'm not a hero, was just doing my job" but they were and are heroes, and some of them through bravery, determination, heart and valor rose to another level, are if you will, a Hero's Hero...we in our area are blessed to have such a man born and raised in our midst, a man who's heroism is the stuff of movies, epic poems and even legend, their stories of bravery, of heroism passed down through the ages.

On Sunday, July 3rd, 2011 you can honor our troops by attending the "8th Annual Francis Currey Day" at the Morningside Park in Hurleyville, the event named in honor of our very own Francis Currey, who is the only living Medal of Honor recipient who hales from the great state of New York, and more specifically was raised from humble, even tragic roots right here in Sullivan County.

From Wikipedia:

Currey was born in Loch Sheldrake, New York, on June 29, 1925. After being orphaned at age 12, he was raised by foster parents on a farm in nearby Hurleyville. He joined the Army in 1943, one week after graduating from high school.[1] Although he completed Officer Candidate School, at only 18 years old his superiors felt that he was "too immature" to be an officer and denied him a commission.[2]

After training with the 75th Infantry Division, Currey was sent to England in the spring of 1944. Due to a recently signed executive order which prevented soldiers under age 19 from entering combat areas, Currey was delayed in England until his birthday at the end of June. He then landed at Omaha Beach, several weeks after D-Day, and in September joined the 120th Infantry Regiment in the Netherlands.[2]

By December 21, 1944, Currey was serving as a Sergeant in Company K, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division. On that day, in Malmedy, Belgium, Currey repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire to attack the German forces and rescue five comrades who had been pinned down by enemy fire. He was awarded the Medal of Honor eight months later, on August 17, 1945.[3]

In 1998, a G.I. Joe action figure was modeled after Currey

Fact is, simply saying that, "exposed to hostile fire he rescued five comrades, though heroic actions does not tell the full story, does not give us the full magnitude of his actions on that day which make him a heroes hero. Flash back over the most action packed epic scenes from all the old war movies you may have watched, and they pale compared to the actions of Francis Sherman "Frank" Currey on that fateful day when destiny stepped in, and saw him rise to levels of heroism that make us stand in awe of him. The official Medal of Honor citation fills in some of the details from that day

He was an automatic rifleman with the 3d Platoon defending a strong point near Malmedy, Belgium, on 21 December 1944, when the enemy launched a powerful attack. Overrunning tank destroyers and antitank guns located near the strong point, German tanks advanced to the 3d Platoon's position, and, after prolonged fighting, forced the withdrawal of this group to a nearby factory. Sgt. Currey found a bazooka in the building and crossed the street to secure rockets meanwhile enduring intense fire from enemy tanks and hostile infantrymen who had taken up a position at a house a short distance away. In the face of small-arms, machinegun, and artillery fire, he, with a companion, knocked out a tank with 1 shot. Moving to another position, he observed 3 Germans in the doorway of an enemy-held house. He killed or wounded all 3 with his automatic rifle. He emerged from cover and advanced alone to within 50 yards of the house, intent on wrecking it with rockets. Covered by friendly fire, he stood erect, and fired a shot which knocked down half of 1 wall. While in this forward position, he observed 5 Americans who had been pinned down for hours by fire from the house and 3 tanks. Realizing that they could not escape until the enemy tank and infantry guns had been silenced, Sgt. Currey crossed the street to a vehicle, where he procured an armful of antitank grenades. These he launched while under heavy enemy fire, driving the tankmen from the vehicles into the house. He then climbed onto a half-track in full view of the Germans and fired a machinegun at the house. Once again changing his position, he manned another machinegun whose crew had been killed; under his covering fire the 5 soldiers were able to retire to safety. Deprived of tanks and with heavy infantry casualties, the enemy was forced to withdraw. Through his extensive knowledge of weapons and by his heroic and repeated braving of murderous enemy fire, Sgt. Currey was greatly responsible for inflicting heavy losses in men and material on the enemy, for rescuing 5 comrades, 2 of whom were wounded, and for stemming an attack which threatened to flank his battalion's position.

Those actions, make Francis Currey a hero, make him a proud member of a very elite group of soldiers who have been awarded the military's highest honor, "The Medal of Honor."

I hope all of you will ink in July 3rd, show up at Morningside Park in Hurleyville to honor Francis Currey, to honor our Wounded Warriors, and to give thanks to all those who served with honor in the Armed Services of the United States of America.

Also, from 1-5 on July 3 in Morningside Park, held in conjunction with this event is the "Francis Currey Day Community Blood Drive."

*note-of the 465 World War II Medal of Honor recipients, 267 were awarded the Medal Posthumously. Only 16 World War II Medal of Honor recipients are alive today.