- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 27, 2006

My Dad — an original GI Joe actually named Joe — is among the last surviving heroes who fought for our country in World War II. He was a figure of action, long before the namesake became an action figure.

Joe was drafted in January 1943 and initially assigned to Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, NC. He rose to become a first lieutenant in the 194th Field Artillery. His unit was active in three of the four Battles for Cassino in Italy, from January through March 1944. He was in charge of four guns: eight-inch Howitzers with 1,200 pound shells ranging up to 8 miles.

His unit suffered a single casualty. Joe survived, to come home, start a successful business, raise a loving family and never forget his days of combat. “I left a boy and came home a man,” he says.

At age 87, Joe is a member of that generation of men of few words and much love. Men who use the words respect and responsibility, respectfully and responsibly. They have wisdom in the wrinkles they earned from lifetimes of thinking about and doing for their families, friends and country.

Traditionally aged grandfathers and great-grandfathers (those old enough to have served their country during World War II) remind me of the strong, suave, silent types of 1940s romantic comedies. More Cary Grant than Brad Pitt.

Flattery and thanks must be forced on these heroes. They are willing to spend time, energy and money on loved ones, but never even dream of putting themselves first.

These are the fathers who knew they knew best, and so do we. It is a vital part of dad-child security systems. They quietly and perpetually protect the younger generation from evil forces.

These are the men with good senses of tradition, perspective and humor. When we hear them share memories of wartime battles in Europe, we know these men did what was expected of them. They inspire us to expect more of ourselves.

Dad is now armed with a computer and high-speed Internet connection. More than 50 years after he served at Cassino, he researched, found and spoke with another surviving member of the 194th Field Artillery. Joe and Gerald had, all that time ago, witnessed the war as fellow soldiers and watched the German bomber planes fly overhead to bomb the Abbey at Cassino. They shared a tent, rations and prayers.

Dad was a GI Joe. He is — and always will be — my hero.


JB Shelton is a freelance journalist in Raleigh, N.C.

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