One of 8 Surviving WWII Medal of Honor Winners Passes at 92 [Video]
We all have our heroes.
As a kid, I loved superhero comics, but they weren't my heroes. They were pen and ink drawings, and later, special effects creations. I also loved Rick Monday (at the time, an outfielder for my beloved Chicago Cubs), but he wasn't my hero (although his flag-saving sprint in the outfield at Dodger Stadium to grab the Stars and Stripes from some idiots intent on burning it was pretty awesome), he was a ballplayer.
My hero, as a child, and later as a man, is my dad, Jake. My dad, sadly no longer with us, was a WWII veteran. He was proud of his service, but never, ever claimed to be, or carried himself as a hero.
Two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts indicated otherwise. I never even knew he'd received those decorations until he'd entered the last few years of his life. He described himself in wartime (if you could get him to talk about it at all) as "doing his job, like all the other fellows did," or "one of so many men in uniform who served our country the best we knew how." He was modest to a fault. He was like so many other members of "The Greatest Generation."
We've lost another of those men. Walter D. Ehlers, 92, of Buena Park, California, passed away last Thursday. Walter held the distinction of being one of only 8 surviving WWII Medal of Honor recipients.
Have you heard his story? According to a report by Karl de Vries at Fox News:
When Walter D. Ehlers was 23 years old, he charged through enemy fire to destroy two German machine gun nests, kill seven enemy soldiers, put a halt to a mortar barrage and carry a wounded buddy to safety – all after he had been shot in the side by a sniper.
The date: June 9, 1944.
The place: Normandy, France.
The story goes on to reveal who Walter Ehlers' hero was:
To Ehlers, however, the real hero in the family was his older brother Roland, who enlisted with Walter in 1940. The day before the Normandy landings, military superiors separated the two brothers to improve the odds that at least one of them would survive.
Walter, then a staff sergeant, made it off the boat on June 6 and helped all 12 of his men survive the landing. His brother, arriving on another boat, was killed.
In later life, Ehlers would say he wore the medal to honor those who didn’t come home – his brother included.
Take a look at the video below. Walter agreed to an interview for the National WWII Museum's oral history collection.
Also, here's Rick Monday saving the flag.