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Valor, Bravery and Sacrifice

November 11, 2011

By Chris Erwin
As we approach Veterans Day, I can’t help but think about all the brave men and woman that have laid their lives on the line for our country and our families.
Most of the time I’m eager to tell you about my passion for the outdoors, I invite you to look through the lens of my camera, and to see the outdoor world through the eyes of this old spirit trying to bleed my passions on to the pages of this newspaper.
Today, I would like to tell you about part of my roots and the man that has had the most influence in my life. I’m talking about my father, Claude Edward Erwin born Nov. 4, 1919. He just had his 92nd birthday and while he struggles with his eye sight and his hearing, he is still strong and works outside in his garden every day that the weather permits.

Claude Edward Erwin, served from Sept.15th 1941 to Sept.15th 1945

My father joined the army on Sept. 15, 1941 just as World War 2 was about to call on thousands of young men to step up and serve their country. Many would lay down their lives for the cause and others, like my father, would leave their mark in blood on the battlefields of foreign soil.
His first deployment would be to Iceland. He told me that after 15 months in subzero weather with six months of darkness, getting told he was heading for the front lines was something that a young man of 22 was ready to hear.
He was told he was going to Normandy. On June 6, 1944 his landing craft holding 40 men dropped its front-loading wall as heavy artillery from ships as far as he could see pounded the enemy in waiting. They bailed out of the LCVP landing craft and hit the ground on Omaha Beach.
My father was later moved to the 5th infantry division, where he had the job of lead scout. As they worked their way though France in that deployment he was wounded by a hand grenade. While he only suffered some small amount of shrapnel wounds, the impact ruptured both his ear drums. He was carried off the battle field and ended up in a hospital in France, but was later moved to England and a hospital there. After some few weeks of healing, he enrolled in what he thought was a school. The school was later to be called the 391st Military Police Battalion. He was then redeployed back to France but not on the front lines.
On Sept. 15, 1945 he was discharged and returned to Huntington, W.Va. Just before he was called up for duty, he had landed the only real job that he had, working for the railroad. He returned to that job where he worked for 36 years and six months at the Raceland Car Shops. He held the position of labor foreman.
My dad had never spoken of the war all the time I was growing up. We spent all of his vacation time on Dale Hollow Lake camping and fishing. It was only after my mother passed away that he would open up and tell about what it was like over there.
When I hear his stories, I know it’s only by the grace of God that I even exist. I find myself, as I get older, extremely proud of him. All of my life, my father has been deaf due to the war yet he has never complained or even said one word about it. He sees it as his duty as an American.
To all those that have served, and all that didn’t return, as a grateful American, I say “Thank You.”

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