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Thursday, January 3, 2013

They Layeth To Rest...A Soldier

I spent my morning and early afternoon paying my respects to a Man who served his Country in WWII. Robert D. (Bob) Norris was with the U.S. Army Signal Corp (Europe) and landed in France on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) in the 2nd wave at Omaha Beach under constant, heavy fire.

His unit was attached to the 101st Airborne Division throughout the Battle of Normandy through the Breakout into Northern France. In early July 1944 after over a month of constant combat, Bob stepped on a German "Schu" Mine and had both of his legs blown off at or just below the knee.

I came to know this man (who I called Uncle Bob) as a very small boy. He lived here on Iyopawa Island with his wife Nita and son Denny. He and Nita built their home here in 1953 and that is when they became close to my grandparents as well as my mother and father.

Even without legs he was the most energetic, helpful, hardworking man you'd ever know. He became a constant presence on the island and most Islanders trusted their cottages to him in the winter time.

Unfortunately, though Bob was in perfect physical health right up until he passed at age 90, Alzheimer's began to take his mind over a decade ago and by the time he died last week he really remembered no one....showing only occasional recognition  when someone spoke a familiar name like that of their long time dog.

Nita died a couple of years ago and Bob had spent the last 4 or so years in the VA Hospital in Battle Creek Michigan where surprisingly he received excellent care. One of the unexpected results of the Iraq and Afghan Wars is that VA Hospitals now receive the adequate attention, staffing and funding that they always should have in the first place.

I have to admit that I am feeling rather sad tonight. The memorial service was beautiful and I had the absolute privileged of serving as one of Bob's Pall-Bearer's. He was given full military honors at graveside, include a standard 3 volley salute followed by the playing of taps on the bugle...all done magnificently by the Coldwater Post of The American Legion.

It was quite cold and overcast with a gentle sow coming down...really a perfect closing to a life lived LARGE. This man would have not liked the word hero being used to describe him as he often said the true heroes are the one's still back in France or Italy, North Africa or in the Pacific. But frankly...I think he was an heroic figure...I know he was to one little boy (Me!) who looked up to him as he was to my father and my son.

I regret that I do not have a picture of Bob and for some reason the Obituaries do not bring up a copy of his recent entry in the local paper..I am unsure why because it was just printed last Friday. So I am afraid I cannot honor this post with his photo today...

So this world lost a great and wonderful man of honor and courage who did what was right even though doing so might very well cost him his own life. Rest In Peace, Uncle Bob....

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