Monday, February 26, 2018

Fort Thomas World War II Veteran Had a Story to Tell

Our Northern Kentucky community lost a hero from the “Greatest Generation” recently.

His name was Richard Horn, and he had turned 98 years old in November.  Richard, who lived his remaining few years in a little subdivision in Fort Thomas, had a story to tell.

I first met my neighbor Richard when his wife died nearly four years ago.  Our friendship began with Sunday visits where I would listen to fascinating stories about his life.  Richard grew up during the Depression and went to war at the age of 22 during World War II.  His stories of his four years in the Pacific started with a train ride from Chesapeake Street in Newport to Fort Worth, Texas.  His girlfriend at the time, Mary, and Richard’s family were there to send him off.  The MPs were there to hold the families behind the line, and friends and families were only permitted to wave to the soldiers.

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Richard smiled as he remembered the day, “She [Mary] broke the line and came and gave me a kiss.”  The MPs did not try to stop her, he chuckled, and the crowd cheered for her.  Little did the couple know that it would be 4 long years of war before they would be able to marry.

Once in Texas, Richard began his army training.  He recalled, he and his buddies were at the movies watching Sergeant York when they learned Pearl Harbor was attacked.

“The movie was stopped and they sent the soldiers back to the base.” Afterwards, Richard remembers being shipped out quickly to California to protect the airports.

Eventually, Richard’s division was sent to Hawaii to guard the beaches.  His photo album proudly displays the black and white picture of him in swim trunks.  His job at the time was to lifeguard a local pool by the beach.

From California, Richard was shipped to Sai Pan with his buddy, Robert Young, who he had befriended back in Texas.  Richard’s voice shook as he recalled his buddy.

“My buddy Robert Young was an officer, and one time he wanted me to go to the Officers Club, so he offered me one of his shirts.”  Richard laughed and said, “I said, no way because I knew I would get caught.” 

Richard recalls last seeing Robert climbing out of a foxhole in Sai Pan to go inspect the line and finding out later that Young was shot and killed.  Richard repeatedly told all his friends and family that he had been lucky to have survived the war when so many of his friends did not.

Eventually, Richard came home to Mary who waited four long years for her sweetheart.  They married and together, they raised a son, Tom, and a daughter, Kathleen.

His eyes glistened and he choked up as he said, “I’m so grateful that I had a good son and daughter and Mary.”  

Mary and Richard were married for 63 years and, when she passed, he missed her every day. As he sat in their home the past few years, he stared at a picture of them taken in earlier years.  He often reminisced about their life together, and he even joked that he talked to her at times.

Richard felt honored to have been part of the “Greatest Generation.”

When I asked him about fighting for America, he said, “I am glad I did. Times were really tough, I’m glad I came back.  A lot of them didn’t; that’s the worst part.” 

Richard died a proud man, proud of his service, and proud of his family, and grateful to have lived through the toughest time America has ever seen.

Article written by Pam Pendery 

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