Sixty years old, young men found their way to Toccoa, Georgia. They arrived by steam train, marched passed a casket factory, and two large cemeteries and asked themselves what had they volunteered for!
They were the first men to test a new concept in military strategy...
These men trained to jump out of perfectly good airplanes behind enemy lines! Not real smart. But for many of these men it paid better and what else did they have to loose. They came from all over the country, poor and rich, educated and uneducated, but all were patriotic and willing to fight for their country.
They came and trained, trained hard! It was that training--3 miles up, and 3 miles down--that saved many of them from certain death!
These men and their struggles have been immortalized in movies like "Band of Brothers" and "Saving Private Ryan".
These movies show the heroism that these men showed in the line of fire. But it was there ability to come back after 3 or 4 years of brutal fighting and war that made them true heroes in my eyes.
For the last nine years, our community has paid tribute to these men and others that fought in to keep our country free. The first week in October, the men who trained at Camp Toccoa and ran Currahee Mountain (3 miles up, 3 miles down) twice everyday are welcomed for the Camp Toccoa Reunion Weekend.
My family and I have participated the last 5 years. Our participation has allowed us to meet these men and learn just how much of heroes they became!
I wanted to take the opportunity to thank them publicly and let you meet them too. They have become part of our families lives and we look forward to them coming back "home" every year. But as the years go by, we see less and less of them.
These are two of my favorite vets: Jake McNiece (left) and Reed Pelfery (right). Both of these men were pathfinders, meaning they were the first on the ground setting up for other paratroopers to come in. They both saw some horrific fighting but also got into some wild adventures!
Jake's adventures are the basis for the movie "The Dirty Dozen" and boy can he tell some stories! He is a Native American Indian from Oklahoma who was the original "wild man". His stories are just unbelievable! But he has a true soft spot for troubled youth. He was just like them and it took his service and two wives to settle him into the heroic life he lead.
Reed still lives in Toccoa and is a fixture at the Currahee Military Museum. He is a gentle man who loves to share his story. He does this to remember the sacrifice of those who didn't come back. Reed, along with many of the other veterans, say that the real heroes are the ones that never came home. He also likes to share the stories that make you laugh and let you realize that these men were able to keep a sense of humor in the face of utter horror!
As you go about today, think about the men and women that share their stories so that we don't ever forget the sacrifice of war for our freedom.
Thank a veteran...
And by all means, don't let today go by without teaching your children about the sacrifice that today signifies.
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