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Editorial: Remembering military heroes

It was an early morning in August of 1945.

The United States, with the help of Davie County hero, the late Tom Ferebee, had just dropped two atomic bombs on Japan a few days earlier.

But Japan had not yet surrendered, and continued to attack the Pacific fleet from above.

Six Hellcats (pilots) from the USS Yorktown were dispatched to Japan to destroy Japanese fighting planes.

While en route, Japan surrendered. World War II was over. The Hellcats were dispatched back to the Yorktown.

They had no idea what was about to happen.

They were preparing to dump their bombs into the sea when 17 Japanese fighters came out of nowhere. In what was probably the last battle of World War II, the Hellcats held their own while being severely outnumbered. They shot down nine enemy planes, but at a cost: four Navy pilots — Ens. Wright C. “Billy” Hobbs, Ens. Eugene E. “Mandy” Mandebert, Lt. Joseph G. Sahloff and Lt. Howard M. “Howdy” Harrison — were killed. And that was hours after Japan had surrendered.

They were among the last — maybe the last — battle casualties of World War II.

My thanks to Sheek Bowden, a local World War II hero, for reminding me of this story.

As we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom this Memorial Day, remember those brave Navy pilots.

Come to Mocksville, and look at the veterans monument downtown. It lists the names of all war casualties who called Davie County home. The list is long — too long.

Stop, and say a prayer. Say a prayer for the families of the men and women who have died protecting our freedom. Say a prayer for our country, that no matter how much we fight amongst ourselves, that we will stick together any time our freedom is threatened by another country. Say a prayer for those still wearing a uniform of the United States military. Pray for their safety. Pray that God will be with them at all times.

Back to those World War II casualties. These guys were flung from their sometimes remote lives into a living hell. One of those men wanted to be a writer. Another was a farm boy. Another had just rescued a pilot lost at sea. The other was that pilot who had been rescued, one of the most popular of the Hellcats.

Even if you can’t make it to the monument this Memorial Day, stop and say those prayers where you may be. That dip in the just-opened swimming pool, those juicy burgers fresh off the grill, would not be possible without our military heroes.

By Amy Peterson

Published: June 2014

There’s more to the story, than what just appears.

A war-written story, from blood and from tears.

My son went to war, a very proud man.

He fought in Iraq, on the hot desert sands.

He witnessed his buddies, his comrades, his men,

bleeding and dying, he witnessed their end.

Where is Pvt. Tommy? He’s blown up all around,

his comrades spent hours, picking him from the ground.

Sleeping in holes, dug in the sand,

dreaming of home, but it’s become foreign land.

He can’t tell his enemy, from family or foe,

as he watches his friends sent out, with tags on their toe.

He knows his Mama, is sleepless like him,

and he tries to send word, whenever he can.

He tries not to worry, his family at home,

the horror that he faces, he faces alone.

His mission is over, he’s sent back to me,

he fought for our freedom, but he’ll never be free.

He yearns for his buddies, that died over there.

He’s caught with the living, in a doubled-looped snare.

He screams in the night, for the battle still roars,

as he lays in his bed, he re-lives all the horror.

Nobody heard the fight, he still fights,

except for his Mama, who comforts him every night.

He never will be, the son I once knew,

the war killed that part, for freedom, for you.

Great nation, great leaders, and all those who will hear,

Freedom began on a mother’s first tear.

Mike Barnhardt is editor of the Davie County Enterprise Record.

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