Below is something I wrote in 2009. This coming week will find day called Veterans Day...to me these are the folks who are heroes and merit great respect. Today our law enforcement folks, first responders...and our military people...they have my respect.
Just some thoughts:
They are still out there, not as many as there once were and not that easy to find. Generally people today look for them in the wrong places.
Today I met and visited with a hero, a real hero. Not some guy that can run fast in short pants, jump over the moon, throw a ball eight hundred miles an hour or think he’s the greatest thing to come down the road. A real hero. His name is Jimmy Gentry.
He is well into his late eighties and lives on a four- hundred acre farm outside of Franklin, Tennessee. On this day there was a swap meet and an old car cruise-in on his farm. So I drove my old red 1966 Mustang convertible there. I had heard about Mr. Gentry but had never met him, so upon my arrival I asked if I could meet with him.
I had read a great deal about him. He was in the 42nd airborne and was at D-Day. This especially caught my interest as my son and I had just recently returned from a thirteen day trip to Europe where we had traveled with a group re-creating the D-Day invasion. We walked the beaches and traveled the route of the troops from the beaches of Normandy to Berlin, Germany.
I had heard that he and his men were some of the first to enter the Nazi death camp of Dachau. On a previous trip to Europe, my wife and I had visited Dachau. There are no words needed. If you have ever had that experience, you understand. You just cannot imagine what happened there.
Near the end of my visit with Mr. Gentry I said to him, “Mr. Gentry, I read where you and your men were the first to go into the death camp of Dachau.” I will never forget the look on his face or his answer. He paused a moment, looked at me and said:
“Young man, if taking bolt cutters and cutting the locks off the main gate at Dachau is not first, I don’t know what is.”
I’d say “hero” is a fitting term. Yes, I met a real hero today.
May 9, 2009