Always Real, Aunt Jean, Tuna

An American Hero

Uncle Claude was already in his late 70s when I came into the family about 13 years ago.  He passed away about a year or so before Sean was born.  Many things bring Uncle Claude to mind, but nothing more so than Veteran’s Day.

The first time I met him was on a warm November afternoon.  AD had taken me to Tuna to meet the family for the first time and one of the first people he wanted me to meet was his Uncle Claude, the man who had been like a father to him after his own father died when he was a young boy.

That afternoon, the three of us took off and played a round of golf and what I learned about him that day was that he was a quiet man loathe to draw attention to himself, that he played a mean game of golf and that he had a razor sharp dry wit to the delight of those agile enough to keep pace.

What I didn’t know about him on that particular day was that he had hoped to play professional baseball before he was called away to serve in World War II when he was eighteen.

I didn’t know that as a 19-year-old boy, he had survived the D-Day invasion on Omaha Beach at Normandy and then later the Battle of the Bulge – two of the most horrifically bloody and casualty-laden battles in American military history.

I didn’t know that later he had ridden through the streets of Paris with de Gaulle as Parisians cheered for her liberators. I didn’t know that he had received a Purple Heart after an enemy’s bullet left him with a shattered elbow and unable to fully extend his right arm for the rest of his life.

And I will never know the horror and hardship he suffered without complaint for my freedom.

Claude lived his life in such a way that very few people knew that he had served America with such honor and valor. He returned home and quietly carried on.


Uncle Claude was not just a hero to a young fatherless boy, but he was a genuine American hero, and remains so to all who enjoy her freedoms.

31 thoughts on “An American Hero

  1. Such a beautiful tribute to someone who is obviously very special to your family and to our country. I’m sure there are many families who have an Uncle Claude – someone who quietly and resolutely did his or her duty for our country and never called attention to the sacrifice it required. Many of them are gone now, or, like my grandpa who flew B-24s out of England on German air raids, are in declining health and won’t be with us much longer. It’s important that those of us who know their incredible stories keep those stories alive, like you have here, for later generations to understand and appreciate.

  2. Thank you AM for sharing Uncle Claude with us! Thank you, Uncle Claude for your sacrifices.

    What an honor to have such a man in your family tree.

  3. This is the story that will cause me to give thanks on this Veterans Day. Our country is losing something special as Uncle Claude’s generation of soldiers dies. They are true American heroes.

  4. Thank you for sharing Uncle Claude’s story with us, so that we may be reminded of all those who have sacrificed for the freedom that we so often take for granted in America today. There are “quiet heroes” in my family as well. We owe them so much! May we always remember.

  5. Don’t even know him and I am tearing up. We are blessed to live in a country where people CHOOSE to protect our freedoms, regardless of their potential personal loss. Beautiful post today.

  6. I didn’t know until I was in high school that my middle aged father had been a paratrooper – a paratrooper?!? – in WWII. Or that he, too, had fought in the Battle of the Bulge – which even I had already heard of – and had a Purple Heart.

    After growing up with one image of my father, as my – duh – father. A quick telling of a story he did not like thinking of even 30 years later, indeed which continued to haunt him in nightmares for the rest of his life, changed him in my eyes forever.

    He and several other paratroopers had been spotted being dropped down behind enemy lines and were discovered by the Germans, who then proceeded to line them all up against trees and shoot them with machine guns. Only the sounds of approaching allied troops kept the Germans from adding more shots to make sure everyone was killed…especially when it was obvious that they pretty much were.

    I believe one other man, besides my father, may have survived that shooting. The fact that they were at the end of the lineup, together with the natural gravity of a machine gun to drop slightly at the end of a spray, meant that my father was wounded in his leg instead of some more fatal spot. But he had fainted and probably looked dead enough to get by.

    And get by he did.

    When he found out that he had inoperable cancer 30 years later, and was given six months to live, he said that he’d always felt – since that night – that he’d been living on borrowed time. And after experimental medications bought him an extra 18 months, he repeated the sentiment.

    And he’d made the most of it, with very few regrets. Which is probably about the best you could say for anyone.

    * * *
    Wow Rebecca, that is an amazing story. Your dad was a genuine American hero. I hope you have written his story down somewhere for future generations. Thank you for sharing it here.

  7. My grandfather also landed on Omaha beach and went on to fight the Battle of the Bulge. We were so fortunate to get to visit Normandy last summer. Standing in that sand where my grandfather’s boots had landed was as moving as the days my children were born.
    I took shells and pebbles from that beach and put them in a shadow box, with a picture of my grandpa in his uniform, and gave them to my grandma, who lost her hero eight years ago.
    Thank you for this tribute.

    * * *
    Just think, Claude and your granddaddy may have known one another.

    A number of years before Claude died, AD wanted to take him back to Normandy but he never had a birth certificate and could therefore not get a passport. Is that not crazy? That you could serve the country in the military but not be able to get a passport? Oh well, AD took him to play Pebble Beach instead and Uncle Claude always said that was one of the biggest thrills of his life.

  8. Yesterday’s post was on the subject. I started with some shoutouts to active and former service members in my immediate circle, and was startled at how long the list got.


  9. It’s a travesty that few consider men like Uncle Claude a hero, especially as they age…but so many would rather idolize those that take HEINOUS advantage of the freedom they have. Thanks for writing about a REAL American hero AM 🙂

  10. That generation…..that generation is the reason we are still the United States of America…they saved us and they saved the world.

  11. Another award-winning post. Bravo. My dad fought in WW II and never talked about the horrific things he saw. I know that’s the case with so many from that war. They witnessed unspeakable things that paid for what we enjoy today. Humbling, indeed.

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