Friday, November 11, 2011

I learned a little bit about my Uncle Paul today from government website

    With today being Veterans Day, I decided to look up the official government burial information on my uncle, John Paul Hurdle, who was killed in the run-up to D-Day. I think he was an Army Air Corp navigator.
    The site, for those of you who might want to look up the burial site for relatives buried abroad is
    According to the site, Uncle Paul was killed May 25, 1944. A much older friend told me that he was aged 10 or 12 and friends with the son of the man who owned the telegraph office and that he was there when the telegram came in to my grandfather. He said they called first and talked to my grandfather and told them they had a telegram with bad news about Paul. They then delivered the telegram. My grandfather was on the porch waiting and crying, like so many parents did during that war.
    About five years after the war a friend of Paul's visited my grandparents. He was apparently traveling the country visiting the families of his fallen friends. He said my uncle helped someone get out of the plane after it began going down, and that he then jumped, but that he was shot while his parachute was still in the air.
    I was unaware until I saw the government site that my uncle, in addition to the Purple Heart, had been awarded the Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters. As I understand it, the Air Medal was awarded after a minimum of five air missions, as was each cluster. So my uncle had a minimum of 25 air missions before he was killed.
    According to the government site my uncle was a technical sergeant with the 562nd Bomber Squadron, 388th Bomber Group, Heavy. He is buried at Normandy American Cemetery
Colleville-sur-Mer, France; I hope to visit some day.

    On a more humorous note, my grandmother was a Five-Star Momma; five of her children enlisted during World War II. My father was sent home from training camp because of a bad heart, with instructions to take it easy because he likely didn't have long to live. He was given a package of medical records to take with him to assist his doctors in his future care.
    After a few months of his laying in a hammock my grandfather decided to consult a local doctor. The doctor looked over the medical records, listened to my Dad's heart, and said, "I'm afraid it's true, Jesse." Doctors didn't have much training back then, and this local doctor surely wasn't going to contradict the government!
    After a few months more of my Dad lying in a hammock my grandfather took him to see Dr. Stern at the Stern Clinic in Memphis. Dr. Stern checked out my Dad and looked over the records and said, "These aren't your son's records. I'm sure some poor soldier has had a heart attack by now, but your son is just fine." My father's days of sitting in the hammock were over.
    Dr. Stern is long retired and died in 2006, but his clinic survives with almost 20 doctors on staff. My dad, who is 88, returned to the clinic a couple of years ago as his heart is weakening with age. They asked him if he had ever visited the clinic before.
    "Yes," my Dad said.
    They then wanted to know what doctor Dad had seen.
    "Dr. Stern."
    I don't think they get that answer too often.

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