According to the National World War II Museum website, there are about one million WWII veterans still alive today. That number is decreasing at a rate of over 600 veterans per day. My children have the honor of calling one of those veterans Peepaw Don.
Although he is not their grandfather by blood, it makes no difference to them or Peepaw. He is their grandfather and they adore him. He is eighty-seven years old, has undergone heart surgery and has a pacemaker to regulate his heartbeat, but he somehow manages to make it to their sporting events, recitals, school functions, and birthday celebrations. He loves my children as if they were his own grandchildren. It brightens my day to see his face light up when he sees them.
He had been with my mother-in-law for several years before I heard his war story. Here is an excerpt from the Purple Heart Austin War Stories website:
Donald Morrison was a Light Machine Gunner in Company K and he remained with them until after the war in Europe was over. He was wounded in Germany on March 23, 1945. Company K was in the attack west of Koblenz, moving through the hills parallel to the Rhine River when they came under fire from a German 88mm gun.
A shell detonated close by and Donald was hit. He fell unconscious, bleeding from a wound to the face and it appeared that he had also been hit in the chest. Believing him dead, the remaining men in his gun team picked up the machine gun and continued forward with the company as it advanced.
Later, as he slowly regained consciousness, Donald first found himself all alone, and then he quickly found the strength to hurry after his comrades. Upon catching up to them, some of the men in his squad “looked like they were seeing a ghost.” A company medic treated his head wound and then examined him, searching for the wound under the large hole torn through the pocket of his jacket. But, there was no wound.
Instead, the medic retrieved from his pocket the New Testament that Donald had carried into combat. An 88mm shell fragment had penetrated half-way through and was embedded in the little pocket Bible. The sharp-edged, inch-long piece of steel had been stopped directly over the first book of Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 10, which reads, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.”
Donald says, “No question I would have been dead if I had not carried my Bible. I was not a particularly religious man at the time, but after that, I knew there had to be a God. I was just very thankful for another chance.”
It is not something that he openly talks about, but I’m honored that he shared the story with me and allowed me to hold the pocket bible that saved his life.