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Discussion Starter #1
And think of the media circus, flags at half staff, and all the things that were said of Whitney Houston when she died. This hero died with barely anyone's notice.
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"Shifty" By: Chuck Yeager

Shifty volunteered for the airborne in WWII and served with Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Infantry. If you've seen Band of Brothers on HBO or the History Channel, you know Shifty. His character appears in all 10 episodes, and Shifty himself is interviewed in several of them.

I met Shifty in the Philadelphia airport several years ago. I didn't know who he was at the time. I just saw an elderly gentleman having trouble reading his ticket. I offered to help, assured him that he was at the right gate, and noticed the "Screaming Eagle," the symbol of the 101st Airborne, on his hat.

Making conversation, I asked him if he'd been in the 101st Airborne or if his son was serving. He said quietly that he had been in the 101st. I thanked him for his service, then asked him when he served,

and how many jumps he made.

Quietly and humbly, he said "Well, I guess I signed up in 1941 or so, and was in until sometime in 1945 ..." at which point my heart skipped.

At that point, again, very humbly, he said "I made the 5 training jumps at Toccoa, and then jumped into Normandy . . . do you know where Normandy is?" At this point my heart stopped.

I told him "yes, I know exactly where Normandy is, and I know what D-Day was." At that point he said "I also made a second jump into Holland , into Arnhem ." I was standing with a genuine war hero ... and then I realized that it was June, just after the anniversary of D-Day.

I asked Shifty if he was on his way back from France , and he said "Yes... And it 's real sad because, these days, so few of the guys are left, and those that are, lots of them can't make the trip." My heart was in my throat and I didn't know what to say.

I helped Shifty get onto the plane and then realized he was back in coach while I was in First Class. I sent the flight attendant back to get him and said that I wanted to switch seats. When Shifty came

forward, I got up out of the seat and told him I wanted him to have it, that I'd take his in coach.

He said "No, son, you enjoy that seat. Just knowing that there are still some who remember what we did and who still care is enough to make an old man very happy." His eyes were filling up as he said it.

And mine are brimming up now as I write this.

Shifty died on Jan. l7 after fighting cancer.

There was no parade.

No big event in Staples Center .

No wall-to-wall, back-to-back 24x7 news coverage.

No weeping fans on television.

And that's not right!

Let's give Shifty his own memorial service, on line, in our own quiet way.

Please forward this email to everyone you know. Especially to the veterans.

Rest in peace, Shifty.

Chuck Yeager, Maj. General [ret.]

P.S. I think that it is amazing how the "media" chooses our "heroes" these days...

Elvis, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston & the like.



"SHIFTY" - an incredible American hero.

Please do me a favor and pass this on so that untold thousands can read it.

We owe no less to our REAL heroes.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
An interview in the local paper with a veteran.

J. Q. Smith: That’s a story in itself. My brother was a Marine.

He went in 1939. He was in when the war started, so he would come home in his uniform. And back in those days they carried their rifle and they carried their pack and they carried themselves in their Smokey Bear hat ... and he would come home and he would go back in the back and he’d have his rifle and he’d let me shoot his rifle and he’d teach me things in the Marine Corps. Walking, preaching and marching and everything ... And I was just 14 years old, but he was a Marine, just beautiful ... He was such an inspiration to me.”

TGI: When did you join?

JQS: In 1943, I turned 17 ... I went down and tried to get into the Marine Corps, and they said I didn’t weigh enough. I had to weigh 120 pounds and I only weighed 110 ... So, they said you couldn’t join the Marine Corps. You could join the Army, Navy, whatever, but you couldn’t join the Marine Corps unless you weigh 120 pounds. So they sent me back home and told me to gain some weight and come back and try it again if I wanted to. So I went home and got into bed ... We had a maid who did the cooking for us. My mother worked and everything and she took care of the house and cooked and she cooked and brought all my meals to the bed. From 1943 to 1944, January 1944. I stayed in bed and I gained nine pounds. I weighed 119 pounds. I said, ‘Maybe they’ll let me go, one pound.”

So, I went down Jan. 2, 1944, and they said, ‘You only missed it by one pound. You did really well. I’m going to tell you how to fix that one pound now’ ... And they put me on the train and they told me to take six pounds of bananas and a bag of popcorn and a half gallon of water ... and about an hour before I got off, start eating the bananas and drinking the water.

TGI: You gained the pound?

JQS: I started eating the bananas and eating the popcorn and drinking the water. And we still had three hours to go. So the train goes, ‘bump, bump, bump .... The pressure started mounting, the popcorn started blowing up and cutting off my breathing so they had to stop the train in this little border town and take me off and take me to the hospital ... I told them what I did and they pumped my stomach ... Then I weighed 114, 115 pounds. So, the next morning, they said, ‘You’re all right, you can get back on the train and go finish your test ... Back in ‘44, the recruiting depot was in the post office and out in front of the post office was a big sign that said, ‘US Marine Corps, US Navy. Navy enlisting personnel must weigh 115 pounds, Marines must weigh 120 pounds’. ... What they had was a little round tent on the outside of the post office and you walk up the steps and a guy standing there goes, ‘Go inside this tent.’ And you draw your clothes off and step on the scale and he says, ‘Are you on the scale,’ and I said, ‘Yep,’ and he records the reading. I weighed 114, 115 pounds, I think, so he put it on my ticket. He thought I joined the Navy. He handed my papers back and I jumped back over to the Marine Corps line and handed my papers and nobody every saw it. And that’s how I got into the Marine Corps.

TGI: What was the heaviest you got to after you squeaked by the weight limit?

JQS: I got to 138, 140. I beefed up a little bit.

TGI: You were in the Pacific Theater in World War II. Is that something you like to talk about?

JQS: I get emotional ... They sent me to boot camp. I did well. I graduated boot camp. I immediately go over seas ... I went to the Philippines.

We were the first Marines to land in the Philippines. In January 1945 ... It was a lot of Japanese. Everywhere you looked it was Japanese soldiers. We were a small organization trying to protect an airfield, set up an airfield to try and get the planes in there to bomb them. The Japanese had one airplane left and it made a bombing run over this airfield we were trying to hold, you know, and it tried one bomb and hit a couple of planes and I went running and the bomb went off and a piece of shrapnel hit me in the head. They took me to the hospital. Back then, they didn’t send you home. They sewed me up, fixed me up, and I was back in there in five days. That was the northern Philippines, then we went south ... There were millions of Japanese, thousands of them everywhere, in the jungles and everything, and so we bombed them. We just bombed them. I was in aerial gunnery, so I rode the back end of an aerial gunner, and we’d go in and strafe ‘em, go in and bomb ‘em.

TGI: The Japanese had taken over the Philippines?

JQS: They completely owned it. We were going from island to island to try and get them out of there. So the war ended and we’re all going, ‘We’re going home, we’re going home!’ A couple of weeks later we’re packing up, packing all the gear up, taking the airplanes and putting them on a barge and taking them out to the deep ocean, the deepest part of the ocean, and dumping them off. Getting rid of all of them. Because the war was over.

TGI: What were you dumping? Airplanes?

JQS: Airplanes.

TGI: Destroyed airplanes?

JQS: Brand new airplanes. Good airplanes ... All kinds of airplanes. All kinds of equipment. Dumping it in the ocean getting ready to go home because we couldn’t bring it home with us and we didn’t want to leave it for them and we didn’t want to blow it all up.

TGI: Why couldn’t you take it home?

JQS: Because the war was over and nobody wanted to bother with airplanes. But we stayed there another couple of weeks, and they said, ‘A shipment has come in of new airplanes and you’ll be going to China.’ So we went from there to China.

TGI: What did you do there?

JQS: We stayed in the hotel and ate and had a good time. And the Japanese were everywhere and they heard the war was over and they were walking around free. So the Marine Corps sent in a whole division, the whole First Division came in, and started putting them on trains and sending them to the coast ... and they put them on boats and sent them back to Japan. So we stayed there about eight months, nine months.

TGI: When you were still fighting, liberating the Philippines, were you aware the war had ended in Europe?

JQS: Yes.

TGI: What was that feeling like for soldiers? They had to fight on yet the party, so to speak, had started in Europe.

JQS: We thought that was a good thing, because we were going to get all those people to help out (laughing) And not draft dodgers or those people who had just come in for two months, so we were so happy ... We were ecstatic. But we never saw any of them. They never came.

TGI: Did you realize that? When did you guys start to realize that maybe they would never come?

JQS: We held out hope because they kept telling us, ‘They’re coming, they’re coming, they’re going to help us, they’re going to help us.’ And we thought then that we were going to Japan, that we were going to land in Tokyo.

TGI: When did you know to you’d make a career out of the Marines?

JQS: I was 19 when I came back home. And I looked around and there were thousands and thousands and thousands of people getting out of the services and walking the streets looking for job or going to school. I got sent to Washington D.C. so I decided I wanted to stay in, so I signed up for another four years. That four years ended and I met my wife Lilli ... She was working for the FBI, she was a fingerprint technician for the FBI. So I married her and took her to Miami.

TGI: What did you do in Miami?

JQS: I couldn’t get a job except for a dishwasher in a hotel, so I went to ... school and studied aeronautical engineering ... I didn’t get to graduate. The Korean War started and they called me back in and I went back to the Marine Corps and I stayed in it every since.

TGI: What was your experience like in the Korean War?

JQS: The Korean War for me was good. I flew an airplane into Korea everyday (from Japan) taking the mail back and forth, taking supplies back and forth and taking the wounded out. That’s what I did.

TGI: You were a pilot?

JQS: I was an engineer

TGI: What was that like now landing in Japan, using it as an ally base?

JQS: That was years later ... It was beautiful, it was gorgeous. The people were nice and the food was good, you could go downtown and walk around. It was a wonderful place.

TGI: What’s it like going to a second war? Is that anything you can get used to?

JQS: You’re more scared than you’ve ever been. Before, you didn’t know. You’re stupid. You’re more cautious, you’re more thoughtful of the other people who haven’t gone through the things you’ve gone through ... It had an impact on me because we had to bring wounded out, we had to bring body bags out. And I never have gotten over that. World War II hardly bothers me, although we seen a lot, but I was so young. I didn’t have the lasting effect on me, like Korea did. Korea had a lasting effect on me. To this day ... You didn’t have the same perspective as when you’re married and your wife is sitting at home. To this day, I can’t watch programs, violence and things, I have to get up and turn off the (TV).

(Smith had been promoted to First Sergeant. He earned a medal for his actions during an Oct. 30, 1965 firefight.)

TGI: Can you talk about that?

JQS: We were sitting on the hill. It was around 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning, and a wave of Vietcong hit us from all sides ... Our troops were all spread out so we could protect the hill. But they broke through ... I got hit in the hand. I was holding a rifle and I got hit in the hand so I put my rifle down and took my pistol and started using just my right hand because I couldn’t hold anything. It finally ended. Daylight came. And I helped evacuate some of the people out. Then they sent me to the hospital. I stayed in the hospital three months in Japan. The day I got out of the hospital ... I got down to the airport to take a plane back home. And I got on the airplane and sat down and someone said, ‘Sgt. Smith, you have a phone call in the office ... I went in and answered the phone and it was the Sgt. Major ... He said, ‘First Sergeant get your things off the airplane, you’re going back to Vietnam.’

TGI: Were you devastated?

JQS: Devastated. Still am. Lilli was waiting in California for me and I was going to be there the next day. And I had to call her up and tell her I wasn’t coming back. I was going to Vietnam ... My time ended in nine more months. I got to come home.

TGI: To California. What did you do there?

JQS: They sent me a letter saying I was being promoted to Sergeant Major and I’d have to sign for two more years and on the second of two years I’d have to go back to Vietnam. I said, ‘I can’t do that,’ so I put my letter in to retire, so I retired and got out to keep from going back.

TGI: Was it Vietnam specifically or were you burned out on war zones in general?

JQS: I thought my luck had run out. I couldn’t do that to my family.

TGI: Did you meet a lot of people who had made it a career, who had gone to World War II and crossed all those eras? Were you unique in that sense?

JQS: Yes, and I still am.

TGI: Did you realize it at the time as you were going through it?

JQS: It didn’t even cross my mind until a couple of years ago. I never thought about it.

TGI: Did you ever stop as you were going through it and question your career choice?

JQS: The best way to answer that question is, if I was able to walk and chew gum at the same time, I wanted to be a Marine. I never looked back or griped.

TGI: Can you compare the three experiences, the three different wars, the three huge parts of American history?

JQS: The thing that stands out in my mind is the loyalty. The loyalty of the young people who do it. Like me, I’m stupid enough to still be loyal. If I could walk and talk and go, I’d do it right now. I’d sign up right now.
 
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