For a great many years our soldiers have went off to war and never returned, but in the case of those who served our country and lived to tell about it, we express our heartfelt gratitude for our freedom that they fought for. I have always known we could rely on our brave soliders “who more than self their country loved”.
This year the Macon County Chronicle would like to honor all our veterans for their dedication to the United States of America, and we proudly extend a special tribute to these four former soldiers who served many decades ago. They are: Jessie Roland Kirby, 97; John L. Fitzwater, 94; Lloyd Driver, 93; and Lawrence Dyer, 97.
Although it sometimes seems like the needs of our country are beyond anyone’s reach, our courageous troops always step in and give it their all.
These four gentlemen have shone brightly throughout the years, and we want to bring back the memories that they have justly earned.
Lloyd Driver, age 93, was drafted in 1942 as a soldier in the United States Army. After basic training in Texas, he was transferred to Camp McCoy in Wisconsin during the winter of 1942/43 getting ready to meet the Japanese in Alaska. But when that fell through he was shipped to northern Ireland and from there he was sent to train for D-Day. Eight months later he boarded a ship in Wales heading for Normandy, France.
Driver was a soldier in the 38th Infantry 2nd Division and he said when they neared Omaha Beach they could see the battle from their ship. “Although we were suppose to go in first, we didn’t have enough troops, so the 1st Division went in on June 6, 1944 and we went in on June 7th, D-Day Plus One, which I am sure saved my life,” Driver said.
Driver, who was wounded but later sent back in, also fought in the Battle of the Bulge. “By the grace of God my life was spared, and World War II ended on May 8, 1945. I returned home while so many others paid the ultimate price.”
Roland Kirby is 97 years old and he served in the United States Army entering on March 16, 1942 at Ft. Oglethorpe, Ga. After Kirby completed basic training he remained with the base quartermaster. They were responsible for the base motor pool and and supply warehouse. He was then transferred to Nichols Army General Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky for a tour as part of the Quartermaster Corps. Nichols General was one of many Army hospitals that were receiving severly wounded troops from the battlefields in Europe.
Kirby’s duties were many as quartermasters issued clothing, allotted food, equipment, kept records, inventory supplies, etc. CPL Kirby was discharged in February of 1946 at Ft. Knox, Ky.
John Fitzwater, age 94, served the United States during World War II in the Army/Air Force 33rd Troop Carrier Squadron. John went to radio school in Illinois after he was drafted and in September of 1942 he was transferred to the squadron in Florence, South Carolina. He was there for one month before they were sent overseas to Papua New Guinea, where he spent the next 30 months hauling supplies, dropping paratroopers, and carrying the wounded to the hospitals in Australia. “I would call ahead and tell them how many patients we had so they would have ambulances waiting when we landed,” said John. “There were many close calls, and several harrowing experiences, but there was a need for our services and unfortunately out of our 13 aircraft we lost seven to the Japanese, along with many fine soldiers. We never knew what perils lay ahead, but I was proud to serve our country with this group of brave soldiers who I knew would never let me down. It was worth every minute of it, to serve our great country.”
97-year-old Lawrence Delford Dyer, was drafted by the United States Army and he entered on May 15, 1941 at Ft. Oglethorpe, Ga. During basic training at Ft. Benning, Ga., Lawrence trained with the 6th Calvary Regiment “B Troop”, learning mounting and dismounting. He went to school for horse shoeing and he moved up in rank to corporal for 3 months and then to sergeant.
Lawrence stayed at Ft. Benning, and became an assistant instructor, where he graduated two classes. The students were for mule pack artillery and horse drawn field artillery. Later there were no more students so Lawrence was shipped out. He went to Camp Carson where he was taken to command general quarters by Major General Whatney. Dyer was to over see five acres of lawns and to supervise 5 prisoners that were there. He was sent to Infantry Services School Commandment and was assigned to the property office. While there he was examined for overseas replacement.
Dyer went to Ft. Riley, then on California and he departed by ship to Brisbane, Australia, then to New Guinea. He was assigned to G Troop, 7th Calvary Divison, and he started out by working the supply detail, loading out for the Maines. Lawrence later went to the Manas Islands where he climbed poles or trees to set string communication. While in the islands they were able to capture 4 big shore guns. Lawrence took bazooka training and went on LCI for two weeks. He fired 20mm aircraft firing gun towards the sleeve targets. Then they were the very first to land on the Philippines and Samara Islands. They cleared these islands and then went on to the Luzon Islands, but not before carrying a #300 radio, operated by a big battery, clipping a phone along to communicate. They would go along in a monsoon towards a boom dock with Japanese shooting all around from all sides. They had a captain who would stay in the background and call out to know what was going on. When the Japanese threw a knee mortar shell among them it burst Lawrence’s right eardrum and nearly deafened that side.
Lawrence said they took many shots and pills to keep from getting sickness and he finally headed back to the US and he was discharged on September 29, 1945 at Ft. McPherson,Ga.
The Macon County Chronicle is proud to honor our former soldiers on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2014. “Thanks for everything, you are all heroes!”