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July 9, 2014

MORRIS: A story worth telling

No one tells a story like Irvin Thomas. And at 90, he has plenty of stories to tell.

Luckily, for more than two decades, I have had the privilege of living next to Irvin, and I have always enjoyed our discussions about veterans and veterans issues.

Recently, as our country commemorated the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Irvin said he had something to tell me. I only wish I had heard about it a few years earlier, but it’s still a story worth writing about.

Irvin, and his two brothers, Stanley and Edward, all served in World War II. They were all members of the Greatest Generation.

Stanley and Edward were fighting in Italy in different platoons in 1944 when they arranged a meeting. Irvin said the two visited for almost three hours before going back to their outfits to once again take up the fight against the Axis.

Three days later, Edward’s Red Bull Division was captured by the German army and sent to a prison camp.

On Dec. 3, 1944, Pvt. First Class Edward Thomas died while in the German camp of diphtheria. After the war ended a year later, Edward’s body, along with other U.S. soldiers who had died, was moved to Lorraine American Cemetery in France.

That was the end of the story. The other two Thomas boys, Irvin and Stanley, returned home after the war.

But 60 years later, in 2005, the story of Edward Thomas once again resurfaced. Irvin said he received a call from a woman one day who said the Army had something that belonged to him. Still a little skeptical, he called Fort Knox to make arrangements for the military representative to meet him at his house.

As he waited along with his wife Betty and sister, a soldier pulled up, looking “spit and polished” according to Irvin, and came to the door. He was carrying a small velvet bag which contained something very special — half of Edward’s dog tag that he wore while a prisoner at the Stalag Viva Camp.

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