Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Another Hero Gone

Last week, Bill Kasson passed away. He was a childhood friend of my father, and they served together in the U.S. 71st Infantry Division during WWII.

The picture above is of my father (left) and Bill. The photo was taken at Stanford University after they finished basic training. They were enrolled in specialized training programs at Stanford when suddenly they shipped to Europe as replacements for the many soldiers who were wounded or killed in the early fighting of the invasion of France.

In the photo, they look excited and proud; ready to embark on the adventure of a life time. And what an adventure it was - across France, into Germany, and ending the war in Austria. Bill carried the 45-lb base of a 81 mm mortar a good part of the way, through eight river assualts, a handful of battles, and the liberation of a concentration camp.

Military life meant much to Bill - much more than it did to my dad. While my father was proud to have served and the war figured into his life in many ways, he never had the desire to wear a uniform again and never wanted to spend another night outdoors. Bill, however, spent 30 years in the military reserves and ultimately lead his reserve unit.

During the war, my father and Bill served in different regiments and saw little of each other. One of my dad's favorite stories was how, after crossing the Elbe in a small boat, he scrambled ashore to where a G.I. extended a hand down the river bank to help him up. It was Bill.

They were able to re-enact the happy moment in the 1980s when they followed the Division's path across Europe. Spending time with Bill remembering the old days brought my Dad much joy. In 1986 my dad died. Bill remained a devoted friend of the family ever since, and we will miss him.

I'd like to think that, as Bill went to go home to the Lord, my dad was waiting to extend a hand and help him up those final few steps.

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