Some stories are forgotten. Others only grow richer with time. All should be recorded for posterity. Therefore, on this Veteran's Day, let me give thanks and relay what little I know of my grandfather. My mother’s father, a great man I never knew, was from the red-lands of Alabama. YC Parris was a tough man, growing up in difficult times. Somehow in the midst of a hard life, he had acquired a gentle disposition, caring for many. Mom says he was known for listening and for his generous nature, for which many would come to him during their time of need.
As a boy, when asking about my grandfather and the war, my uncle YC, Jr. said he understood that his father and a few of his friends joined the military shortly after the United States entered World War II. YC was one of the fortunate soldiers who came home 4 years later to his wife and young daughter. My mother tells a story of her father’s surprise encounter with his brother-in-law Eslin Roper on the battlefield in France. This story is so revered by the Parris’, that to this day, many family members still relay the event at funerals and on holidays.
Like others that had a rough time overseas, my grandfather never talked about the war. Communications home to the family during the war were poor. Few other stories exist, and those that do - are steeped in legend. From my earliest years, I remember the “Thanksgiving Account”, recited many times by family members this time of year. Supposedly, the events took place on Thanksgiving, November 1944, somewhere in eastern France. In hopes of brightening a dreary and cold Thanksgiving Day, insulated food or marmite containers were filled with turkey and dressing. YC Parris volunteered to drive his motorcycle forward, laden with some of these warming containers to the frozen soldiers of the 22nd Infantry Regiment. While delivering turkey dinners, my grandfather was blown off the motorcycle by gunfire, receiving multiple wounds to the leg. He was sent to hospital and subsequently returned to his unit. As a child, listening to stories of my grandfather, I would think of the cold soldiers in France and curiously ponder if they ever received their holiday meal.
No less heroic, my grandfather’s service records tell a slightly different story than the “Thanksgiving Account”. First, and perhaps most astonishingly, his Enlisted Record and Report of Separation indicates that he earned the Bronze Indian Arrowhead Device with the 4th Infantry Division. The Arrowhead Device is given to Service members who “participate in an amphibious assault, a combat parachute drop, a helicopter assault landing, or a combat glider attack”. He was not airborne, so it is most likely he was with one of the assault waves at Utah Beach on D-Day with the 4th Infantry Division. Evidently, my grandfather never spoke of the invasion as I have never heard a recount from family.
His records further indicate that he was wounded in the leg within 30 days after the assault, in Brittney France, receiving the Purple Heart by General Order from the 4th ID during July of 1944. My grandmother was informed by letter, on the 28th of August 1944, from the United States Democratic Whip, Lister Hill. After his injuries, my grandfather YC obviously returned to duty; as the Service record indicates he received the Bronze Star and he came home to his wife and child in the summer of 1945. Even though I have recited the revered “Thanksgiving Account” to my sons over the years on holidays, YC Parris’ military records do not reflect a November 1944 combat injury. The story never told, the story of the combat assault on D-Day and the subsequent combat related injuries of my grandfather in Brittney, may reflect even greater acts of valor. This account was never handed down. Regardless of the story, YC Parris’ Service to our country was nothing short of meritorious.
We owe a debt of gratitude to those that have come before us. So many have paid the ultimate sacrifice for us to enjoy our families during this upcoming Holiday Season. Starting on the 11th of November with Veterans Day, through Thanksgiving and Christmas, let us remember to give thanks for those who have come before us.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season!