November 30, 2009

My Grandfather: Edwin Norris

My grandfather is the hero of our family. Its that simple. We are all so proud of him and so proud to be a part of his family. His passing on November 19th left a huge hole in our lives. We all looked up to him as the head of our family.

Grandaddy saluting at a Veteran's Day celebration.

Growing up, I always remember him being a quiet man. I wasn't aware of his military background or his role in the church, or that so many people looked up to him. He was just my Granddaddy. The perfect combination of warmth and sternness that made him someone I respected greatly. When Grandaddy spoke, we all stopped to listen. Every once in a while I would see how charming and witty he was. He would crack a joke with a sideways smile and a chuckle and we would all laugh. Grandaddy was sarcastic.

Grandaddy joined the army in March 1941. He was only 15 years old. Three of his brothers had joined the service and he didn't want to be left behind. He was big for his age and at 6'1" and 170 lbs, the recruiter never questioned that he was 18 and he was signed up.

We found most of this when going through his things after he passed.

(I want to make sure I get the facts straight so I'm going to quote his obituary:)
"He took basic training at Doddfield and joined K-Company, 9th Regiment (Manchu) 2nd Division, at Fort Sam Houston. His infantry and commando training was at Camp Bowie, Louisiana. Then on to winter training at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, where T/SGT Norris served as recruit instructor under Colonel Jack K. Norris of the 38th Infantry.

Combat duty, for T/SGT Norris, began in Northern Ireland, Wales and England. He fought in the Normandy Invasion and was wounded by mortar shell in the Normandy breakout. He served in Normandy, Southern and Northern France and Ardennes-Alsace Campaigns.

T/SGT Norris was carried unconscious from the front lines sometime after the "Heartbreak Crossroads" battle, the north shoulder of the "Bulge", at Rocherath -Krinkkelt, to Wahlers- cheid. (Diagnosis-hypothermia) He was revived at a regimental-aid-station. Then he crossed country without boots to a division evacuation point.

From there, he was transported to Paris, France, then England, from which he was then shipped back to the states. T/SGT Norris received a medical discharge at Dewitt General Hospital, Auburn, California, August, 1945.

Technical Sergeant Norris was awarded the following medals: Combat Infantry Badge, 2 Bronze Stars w/First Oak Leaf Cluster, 2 Purple Hearts, E.A.M.E Campaign w/4 Bronze Stars w/arrowhead, Distinguished Presidential Unit Citation, Distinguished 1st Army Commander Citation Lausdell Crossroad, American Defense Medal and Good Conduct Medal."

I don't think I ever once talked to him about his experiences in WWII. But I know that he carried that with him for his entire life. I can't imagine what he went through at 15 years old. It makes his experiences even more amazing to me. Most men I know now, at 26 and older, aren't half the man he was at 15 years old.

Grandaddy met my grandmother on a blind date 2 days after leaving the service. Its so funny to hear her tell the story. She knew right away that he was the one for her. My great aunt knew of two soldiers who needed dates that night. She asked my grandmother and another girl if they would like to go out with them. My grandmother said sure and as soon as she saw him she turned to her friend and said "That one is mine."

I don't blame her. He was so handsome. This is my favorite picture of them together. They look so young and happy and in love. They were married for 63 years. She was a devoted wife and took care of him every second of their marriage, up until his very last breath.

This is my favorite picture of them.

When I think about his life, I know he lived it the way he thought was right. He was dedicated to God and was a strong Christian and a leader in the church. He worked hard and provided for his family. Grandaddy always tried his best to set an example for us. He was so incredibly hardworking, generous, thoughtful, strong, disciplined and humble. He was every good thing you could say about a person.

I was surprised at how many people said that he touched their lives through the years. So many came to pay their respects to him at the visitation and the funeral. After his funeral I heard someone say that he made her want to be a better person and live a better life. Hearing that was so powerful to me.

The preacher who officiated the funeral had only known my grandfather a year or so. In that time they had really hit it off and become very close. The preacher told a story at the grave site that really stuck with me. He said after church services one day he stopped my grandfather as he was leaving and asked if he could talk with him for a minute. My grandfather, always concerned and wanting to help, said "Of course, whatever you need." They stepped aside and the preacher told my grandfather how much he looked up to him as a person and said that he wished that he could be just like him.

My grandfather was a role model and someone to be admired. The way he lived inspired people. My whole life I don't think I understood the magnitude of him as a person and the affect he had on the world. I didn't realize any of this until I saw it in those people's faces. To me, he was always my just my Grandaddy. He was and is my hero.

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