Dinner with my American hero family in Little Rock.
Dinner at a fine restaurant in Little Rock with my wife, who looks and is the happiest she has ever been, her uncle Bob Denman, brother of my late war hero father-in-law, Col. Dale Denman, Jr., Alex’s cousins, Bob, Jr. and Stan, and their lovely wives, Peggy and La Donna.
I had the honor of sitting next to Uncle Bob as we ate.
“How soon after you got to Korea did you go into combat?” I asked him.
“Two days,” he said in his soft Arkansas accent.
“Two days?” I asked incredulously.
“We landed at Pusan and a train took us to the forward lines and then a truck took us to the outpost, and as soon as we got there, I got into a sandbag bunker, and artillery and mortars were exploding all around us.”
“What went through your mind?”
“The first thought I had was that I prayed to God that I would not be a coward,” he answered. This was exactly what Col. Denman told me his first thoughts had been when he entered combat in Germany. It must have been something the Denmans were raised with. Maybe all Southerners are raised that way.
“What happened after that?” I asked.
“We moved steadily north, and then we were at some trenches that had been built by Ethiopian troops we were relieving. And intelligence told us we were about to get attacked by the Chinese in large numbers. So then there were these bugles and next thing you knew, the Chinese were charging at us. I just took my carbine and kept shooting back. I wished I had an M-1 but as an officer, I had a carbine.”
“Then what were you thinking?”
“I was scared to death but I just kept firing,” he said, “and then we got hit by napalm from our own planes. These shiny aluminum canisters would just drift down and then they exploded and there was fire everywhere. I never got any on me, but I got white phosphorous from the Chinese and that burned.”
I didn’t think I should grill him all through the meal, so I let him eat in peace for about ten minutes and then I said, “We are so proud of you. You really cannot know. In our hearts. All of the time.”
Across the table, Peggy, Bob Jr.’s wife, started to talk about her 90-year-old father. “He was at Normandy,” she said. “His family didn’t have a lot of money. They had eight children. They needed help. So my father, at age 17, lied about his age and joined the Army. He trained for a long time and then he went to Normandy. He had two Purple Hearts and a lot of other medals. He never talks about it and when he does, he cries about his friends who died.”
My Lord, what men and women these are.