Contributed By Ernie Padgett
How many of us as young kids would listen to a parent and accept every word as absolute? Then as we grew into teenage and young adult years, started to question these absolutes. Many of us would just remain silent and form our own conclusions without openly questioning a parent.
As for me, and I'm sure many others, as we grew older, sometimes circumstances and time became the great teacher.
I was raised on the "south side of the tracks" in Marianna in an area known as Daffin Bottom. My Dad worked for many years at Robert Andrews store. Located on the corner of South Jefferson and South Street, Andrews was probably the busiest store in town. It was a gas station, grocery store, meat market, grease rack, bait shop, and radiator shop. The old store, though closed for many years, still stands.
"Mr. Robert" and my Dad would let me work there at a very young age, probably about 10 years old. My job was to "watch the front" as Dad put it. A car would drive up to the gas pumps and I would kick into gear....pumping gas, checking the oil and tires...and last but not least...washing the windshield.
I spent many hours listening to Dad and his friends talking about their WWII experiences while gathered around the drink box at Andrews. This was before the days of coffee groups meeting at McDonalds, Hardees, or the Gazebo. Back then people would stand around a local store to discuss whatever was on their mind.
When I was very young, I believed it all. As I grew older, I started to think that some of it was true and some of it may have been exaggerated. These guys were my Dad's war buddies....and his drinking buddies.
They would talk about the battles they fought in and the cold winters in Germany. They talked (with each other) about friends, some from Jackson County and surrounding areas, that died in combat.
Many of these conversations took place in the late 1950's when I was 10, 11, and 12 years old. My Dad passed away in 1982. Many years later, in 2005, I requested his military records from the Department of Army.
When his records were sent, I was both happy and sad. Sad because after reviewing all the information sent to me...I realized that my Father had not exaggerated anything.
I received a letter from the National Personnel Records Center that stated, in part, the following:
"For veteran Ernest L. Padgett, Sr. we are pleased to verify entitlement to the following awards:
Bronze Star Medal
European - African - Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one bronze service star
World War II Victory Medal
Combat Infantryman Badge 1st award
The Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII
The letter further stated, relative to the Bronze Star award, the following "The Bronze Star Medal (BSM) was established in February 1944. Announcement of the criteria of the award was made several months later. At the conclusion of World War II, General George C. Marshall, upon reviewing the number of awards received by infantrymen, was disturbed to learn that comparatively few had received recognition and that infantrymen accounted for more casualties than any other branch or element of the U. S. Armed Forces. In order to rectify this disparity and oversight, the criteria was established for Combat Infantryman Badge and Combat Medical Badge recipients during the period December 7, 1941 to September 2, 1945 to receive the Bronze Star Medal."
After serving our country in World War II, in 1944 and 1945, my Dad received an honorable discharge on October 16, 1945.
The records I received show conclusively my Dad had been in combat many times. I'm writing this article on May 28, 2012, Memorial Day.
My Dad and so many others didn't have to exaggerate anything...they lived it. They fought and many died for our freedom.
By this article I'm saying to all of them, Thank You.
I feel my Dad knows this.