World War II vet receives thanks for a job well done Grant Pope is presented with the Bronze Star and seven other medals
Grant Pope presented with the Bronze Star, seven other medals
At age 85, Grant Pope of New Milford vividly remembers the morning in mid-winter of 1945 when he crawled out of a foxhole on the French-German border moments before an enemy plane landed right where he'd been.
The World War II infantryman recalls his helmet was blown off his head, but he escaped.
During his six-month assignment to Europe in the war's waning months, just after the D-Day invasion, Pope was involved in three campaigns -- Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe -- and he survived them all with just a shrapnel wound to the knee.
"It was not my time,'' said the South Main Street resident, a retired auto repair shop owner.
That WWII wound earned him a two-month hospital stay and the prestigious Purple Heart.
His actions as a private first class and then as a sergeant ultimately rewarded him with numerous military honors, including the prestigious Bronze Star.
After the war, Mr. Pope married Sadie, now his wife of 65 years.
Together they raised two children, Doreen Dupill of New Milford and Grant, who died in 1971. He has one grandson, Grant, now an Air Force sergeant serving as a medic in Afghanistan.
On Jan. 13, Mr. Pope reflected on his wartime service as he was visited by U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a visit prompted by his family's efforts to get replacements for war medals that had been lost.
To his surprise, Pope discovered that, beyond the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, he was eligible for some other combat honors.
All told, Congressman Murphy presented him with eight medals, including a combat infantry badge, a sharpshooter rifle bar badge, and even a good conduct medal.
"I got that? Somebody goofed,'' joked Mr. Pope, who enlisted in Camden, N.J., on July 26, 1944 and was honorably discharged at Fort Dix, N.J., on June 30, 1946.
His European deployment extended from Jan. 3, 1945 to July 11, 1945.
Mr. Pope's daughter, a Brookfield kindergarten teacher, was touched by Congressman Murphy's willingness to arrange for her father to receive medals that speak to his sacrifices on behalf of his country, a humble heroism that his grandson suggests in a recent letter inspires him each and every day.
"It's so heartwarming,'' Ms. Dupill said.
She said her father's medals quest was encouraged by fellow veterans he had met in September through the AmericanWarrior organization's annual Day of Honor ceremony at the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.
After what proved to be an awe-inspiring journey for her father, Ms. Dupill said he was more eager to obtain the keepsake medals the family intends to frame as a lasting legacy to his patriotism.
For Mr. Pope, who enlisted in the Army when he was just a teenager, after working on farms in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and in New Milford, World War II was a noble effort and serving his country was a privilege.
He is quick to say he feels quite differently about today's war in the Middle East.
"I don't feel good about the war we are fighting now. At least, when that war (World War II) was over, it was over,'' he remarked.
Then Mr. Pope's voice broke. He fears his grandson has pledged his loyalty to a "war that is never going to be over."
In his recent letter, Mr. Pope's grandson wrote, after witnessing the despair and wounds of war, he would like to hear about his grandfather's war experiences. His own experiences have given him a new respect for his "Papa"... "the man who can fix or build anything, the one with more love and patience than anyone I have ever met, the one I hope to one day be as good as.
"Thank you so much for everything you and your fellow soldiers did," Mr. Pope's grandson wrote, "not only for America but for the oppressed.''
After Congressman Murphy presented the medals, he noted Mr. Pope's family knows the meaning of service. The congressman said he is honored to play a small role in honoring that contribution.
"This is the most wonderful part of my job," the congressman said. "Guys like Grant didn't do this for the medals, but it's nice to give them their overdue honors."