Monday, May 28, 2007

May We Never Forget

On this Memorial Day 2007 I am re-posting an article I wrote in December. I ran into Gene Hodges, son of Walton Hodges Jr., a couple of days ago. It blows my mind that his grandmother had two sons fighting and flying in World War II at the same time. Gene reminded me that she did not have the luxury of communication like we have today. All she could do was wait and pray. Her biggest fear was that of seeing an automobile with government tags in her driveway. That fear became a reality. And this family is representative of the thousands of families who lost loved ones while serving our country. We are fortunate to live in a country where we are free to pursue our dreams whatver they may be.

Today we are reminded that kind of freedom did not come without a great price.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006
May We Never Forget

My dad served in the Navy in World War II. As I got older I began to really appreciate the stories he told about the time he served as Lieutenant on the USS Mendocino. He loved his country and he had great respect for those who sacrificed life and limb for the cause of our freedom.

Last night I found a letter my dad wrote to his mother in law while in port at an island somewhere in the South Pacific. He talked about looking forward to coming home and joining his dad in the family business in Reynolds, GA.

He was able to do that and lived a great life and raised a family in his hometown of Reynolds. He always said he was a better man for serving our country. But the truth is many of those brave Americans defending our country do not make it back.

One of those heroes who never made it back was a Second Lieutenant Army Air Force Fighter Pilot from Reynolds, Georgia by the name of Benjamin Hodges. He was shot down defending a little village in France on June 20, 1944, exactly two weeks after D-Day.

Ben also had a brother in the Navy. Walton Hodges, Jr flew torpedo planes off aircraft carriers. Walton Jr, who I knew well, made it back to Reynolds and raised his family there.

Benjamin’s death not only broke a mom and dad’s heart but he also left a young wife from Reynolds by the name of Dorothy Brunson Hodges. She would later remarry another fighter pilot who served in World War II.

My dad always spoke with much pride and respect for the Hodges brothers and their service to our country in World War II. There is a marker for Benjamin Hodges at Hillcrest Cemetery in Reynolds on the Hodges lot. My dad told me years ago that Benjamin’s boots are all that is buried there.

I found out today through an email that his foot is buried in St Laurent, Normandy, France at the American Cemetery, the cemetery depicted in the motion picture, Saving Private Ryan. His body is buried with his plane in a soggy area in a little village in France. The mayor of that town owns that property. Some cousins of the Hodges brothers visited the burial site in Normandy and the site of the crash in Rouy-le-Petit recently and have shared some photos of what they found. They also left some Georgia red clay at his grave in Normandy and also at the crash site. They explained to their tour guides that the crash site reminded them of Reynolds, GA.

This town in France is planning on honoring Benjamin for sacrificing his life while defending their town from the Germans over 62 years ago. They are delighted to hook up with his relatives in the United States and get information they had no idea they would ever get. Some of the Hodges family is planning on going to France for that ceremony.

My dad would be absolutely flabbergasted that the world would ever become small enough to make this connection. The internet truly is incredible.

In a day when many young people in our country are looking to movie stars, athletes and rock stars as heroes, I thought it would be good to introduce some real heroes.

Eugene Walton and Winifred Newsom Hodges (picture shown here of Mrs. Winnie) produced two of them. From the little town of Reynolds, GA, their two sons (Walton, Jr and Benjamin), who were two years apart in age, became fighter pilots in two different branches of the service at the same time during the same war.

One of them is being honored in a little town in France for his heroic actions.

Both of them are being honored on this blog by the son of one of their best friends.

May we never forget.

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