Brave soldierVernon McGarity

In World War II, before the Battle of the Bulge, Sgt. McGarity was stationed near Krinkelt, Belgium, with the 99th Infantry, when he was wounded by artillery. He refused to be taken to a hospital just before the decisive battle, and returned to lead his men. The battle went on all through the cold night. In the morning, McGarity saw a line of tanks approaching. He grabbed a rocket launcher and disabled the lead. His squad pushed the offensive back …and started running low on ammunition. He knew of a hidden cache, but it was 100 yards toward the enemy. He went to get it — alone. An enemy machine-gunner saw McGarity, and was waiting for him to head back. But McGarity saw that his escape path was covered, and took out the machine-gun nest himself. And in the heat of the battle, he rescued two of his men who had been wounded. “I was still holding,” he said years later, “and did hold until such time as we ran out of ammunition and it was necessary to surrender.” He was held by Germany until that nation surrendered.

When McGarity was released, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by then-president Harry S Truman. “The extraordinary bravery and extreme devotion to duty of T/Sgt. McGarity supported a remarkable delaying action which provided the time necessary for assembling reserves and forming a line against which the German striking power was shattered,” noted the citation. In all, the Americans suffered 81,000 casualties in the battle (and the Germans more than 100,000). After the war, McGarity served for 28 years in the Tennessee National Guard, and retired as a lieutenant colonel. He spent 35 years working for the Veterans Administration, most of that time at a veteran’s hospital, where he helped ensure veterans got the treatment and benefits they were entitled to. He died May 21, from cancer, at 91.

From This is True for 26 May 2013