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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Heros

My apologies - I'm experiencing camera difficulties and, currently, am unable to download photos. Please do read this post; the information is, more than, worthy of your time.

Like the Good Book says, "for those with eyes to see and ears to hear"...heros are all around us. Oh, I know, in this day and age certain words are, dreadfully, over-used. Awesome, create, hero are a few.

Yesterday I drove in one of the worst snowstorms of this winter to attend the wake of my friend's step-father. Mary Lois and I have been friends for almost thirty years and yesterday's journey, while not a test of that friendship, was certainly a testimony to it. It dawned on me about halfway to Roanoke, not many people would have driven in the storm; they would have used it as an excuse. That's okay too. It was a good excuse but couldn't trump friendship. And, had I not gone, I would have missed a wonderful opportunity to shake a hero's hand and touch history.

The wake was for Ted Carroll, one of the most interesting men you'd ever want to meet, but then, a good many men of his generation are truly interesting. Yet you'd never know it because they are also some of the most humble men you'd ever meet. Gentlemen of the old school and we're losing them at a rate of about three hundred per day. Soon, they will all be gone and we'll be left with only memories.

Ted's parents, in early 1920, moved to Bozeman, Montana under the Homestead act...how cool is that?! It's where Ted and his sister were born and where they spent their childhood. Ted worked on their 9,000 acre ranch and was an expert horseman and skier and it's a safe guess he was a pretty good cow wrangler as well. He also drove a stage coach between Ennis, Montana and Virginia City!

He was an Army Air Corps pilot, flying his B-17 Heavy Bomber out of Deenethorpe, England on 29 missions. After flying three more missions than required in his B-17, he flew several assignments in a P-51.

My information is from speaking to his family and from his obituary and if there are any errors, they are mine alone. This was taken directly from Ted's obit and, pretty much, says it all, "The best description of Ted's life was written on his first grade report card at Pass Creek School. "A dear good boy, doing better every day."

One of Ted's fighter pilot buddies came to the wake. He was using a walker but drove himself, was frail but stood tall, was quiet yet radiated strength. Mr. Bill Overstreet is a bona fide hero of World War II. He flew a P51C he named the "Berlin Express" and was in the 357th Fighter Group. He has many, fascinating stories he tells of both war and peace time; read about them here and see his plane here.

Last year, in December, Mr. Overstreet, originally from Clifton Forge, VA, was in Bedford, VA at the WWII National D-Day Memorial. He was there to meet with French Ambassador Pierre Vimont where Ambassador Vimont presented Bill Overstreet with the French Legion of Honor medal. Napoleon Bonaparte established the French Legion of Honor in 1802 and it's the highest decoration given in France. It's divided into five degrees, the highest being Chevalier or Knight and it was this Ambassador Vimont presented to Captain Overstreet. The medal cannot be given posthumously, or after death, and Mr. Overstreet was too frail to travel to France so France came to Mr. Overstreet by way of Bedford. The Roanoke Star-Sentinel and the Roanoke Times articles give more information and photos.

Ambassador Vimont presented The Legion of Honor to "a true hero, a legend indeed". Captain Overstreet flew more than 100 missions, was shot down three times, captured once and escaped but those are only the highlights. The most well known of Captain Overstreet's pilot exploits was when he flew his P51C Mustang, following a German ME109G Messerschmitt  through the skies of Paris. Literally. The German pilot, in trying to escape a persistent Captain Overstreet, flew underneath the Eiffel Tower! Captain Overstreet followed and the likeness is captured in The Berlin Express Arrives in Paris; the painting is signed by Captain Overstreet.

Mr. Overstreet, in true humbleness accepted the award on behalf of his fallen comrades, those who didn't come home but gave their lives so he and others could come home.

It was an opportunity of a lifetime, to meet this man, to shake his hand, to say "thank you for serving". What an absolute gift and blessing in my life to have both the opportunity and, now, the memory. When Mr. Overstreet received his medal, Virginia Governor Kaine sent a letter as did Senator Warner and Congressmen Perriello and Goodlatte and while that was nice, it was certainly the least any of them could do. They missed the opportunity of a lifetime and I'm sorry for them. I'm sorry they didn't realize the significance and importance of the event and chose to rearrange their terribly important schedules. I'm sorry they choose not to personally honor and shake the hand of a living legend when he received the highest honor France has to give. We don't have many living legends left.

Until next time,


Blessings ~ Captain William J. Overstreet, Jr. ~ heros ~ living legends ~ legends ~ French Legion of Honor ~



14 comments:

  1. Fabulous story, Sandra. Thanks for sharing. I agree that their generation is one of the most interesting.

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  2. I'm glad that you were there for your friend and her father, despite what the weather was doing.
    What an interesting man you met. You are right... a real hero.
    The elderly gentleman who lives across the street from me is hero too... His plane was shot down, he was captured and sent to POW camp ... Ate sawdust to stay alive, because they were not given much food.

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  3. What a great story and such an honor to meet him!

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  4. Wonderful story! I'm glad I read it, and thank you for sharing it. My 88 y/o father in law is a WW II veteran. He was there for the bombing of Pearl Harbor, as well as the "a-bomb" tests in Bikini Islands. There aren't many of those old heroes left. -Tammy

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  5. A beautiful story...I feel the new generations will miss opportunities like this as they see them as a bunch of old people. I find older people so interesting, they have so much knowledge and experience. Maybe because my son was in Iraq I feel like you, these men are great heros. I don't take them for granted. Because of them we are free.

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  6. Thank you for sharing. So many of these true heros have gone unappreciated and perhaps taken for granted.

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  7. What a great story! I volunteered for a couple of years as a State Ombudsman working with seniors in licensed private homes. I've always enjoyed listening to stories about their experiences and felt sad that unfortunately many of today's youth will never experience some of the lessons learned that have given many of the elderly much self worth in their life.

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  8. what a wonderful friend you are! are great people just the best. love your story. glad you are safe and sound.

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  9. Fabulous post Sandra. You are so right that these gentlemen will soon be a memory. My father was a corpsman in the South Pacific in the Navy during WWII and was called back for Korea. It's amazing to think of what these boys saw and went through but yet they never asked for a thing...then you think of a lot of Viet Nam vets...what a difference.

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  10. What a marvelous story! You are blessed to have met Mr. Overstreet. It does seem like there are precious few heroes in this generation. I think it's because we are taught self-preservation and to play it safe. There's precious little opportunity to be a bona fide hero when you're always looking out for yourself and you're more concerned with being safe then free.

    My grandfather served with the Army Air Corps in WWII and the Korean War. My father was with the Air Force during Vietnam. While I didn't serve (although I almost did), I am always brought to tears when I see service men and women. They remind me of freedom and of my Papaw and Dad and what it means to stand tall for something bigger than yourself.

    Wonderful post,
    Jen

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  11. Sandra, you absolutely MUST send a copy of this post to the respectable and honorable governor, senator and congressmen you mentioned, or at least e-mail them this post in such a way they will be compelled to read it and just maybe feel a little shame.

    And what a post honoring our heroes. You're right, we don't read much about heroes like that anymore, I have a suspicion they still exist but are too politically incorrect now a days( especially if they are Christians). Thank-you for this post.

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  12. wow what a brave pilot flying under the Eiffel Tower lets hope future generations never forget what those old soldiers and the soldiers now are doing for them

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  13. Chaplain CPT Jeff Clemens, U.S. Army4:30 AM EST

    Captain Bill Overstreet's true strength is his gentleness. No one is more thoughtful or generous than he. I count Bill as one of my most remarkable friends. His only wish is that his comrade Captain Eddie Simpson be remembered from the Second World War.
    Eddie gave his life in a ground action defending the Free French as they fled the Germans.
    He died in the middle of a road with no cover manning a captured machine gun with a small number of Maquis. Eddie's friends would not learn of the details of his death until the year 1959.
    To honor Captain Simpson, Bill established a scholarship in his memory. This act is typical of Bill. The manner of Eddie's death is to be remembered by a grateful nation and his wartime friends.

    Eddie is the hero behind this hero. The finest men produced by their generation both in war and in peace. This medal speaks for them all. For all fighter pilots are team members. The WE and not the me.

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