“There is nothing I have not done or seen, I’ve lived a full life.” ~Sir JJ Witmeyer~
I not only traveled with a hero on Sunday, but someone who was recently KNIGHTED!!! I kept teasing him all day buy calling him “Sir JJ” and he sloughed it off. Remember back on DDay reading about the
Queen snubbing a ceremony in France (correction via Silke) the Queen was not invited? ? My traveling companion was one of the heroes sitting there as he received the title of Sir form the French Legion of Honor. OMG!!!!!!!!!
I wrote a little about my Sunday traveling companion on this previous post. Now that I had the honor to travel from AR to Dallas and back to New Orleans with my most favorite traveling companion ever, I thought I’d tell you about him. This will not be an appropriate history of his career, so all you’ll get is my personal account of a true American hero from our conversations.
JJ and I caught the shuttle from the hotel at 9:00 AM. Right away, I could see the gentlemen he truly was. He was very concerned about me even rolling out my own luggage and inconveniencing me. At 88, this dapper dressing and handsome man, still demands respect just by looking at him. His suit was pristine and his tie and shirt well pressed and coordinated. His Military Order of the Purple Heart hat was white and crisp and says “National Historian Emeritus” on the side (a position he held for 15 years). As soon as we walked into the airport, he was assisted with everything he needed and thanked for his service several times. We checked in together and were upgraded to the front seat on our first flight and first class on our second flight. During our flight change in Dallas, the wheelchair assistant made the mistake of asking him where he got his purple heart. With his good sense of humor, he told her he needed to unbuckle his pants. He informed her she should never ask anyone where they were wounded, but where they served and how they were wounded. She was a veteran herself and was enamored by him and appreciated the lesson.
(below JJ & Father at the Fayetville airport)
As soon as we got on the plane together, my true adventure began, JJ talked and I listened and soaked in everything he said. The man has a memory like a steel trap (and I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast). He could talk about one event and give every detail including names of the restaurant, the year and who he dined with. Currently he belongs to 10 veterans organizations, still sits on many veterans committees, is active in New Orleans for the VA hospital, sits on the Mayor’s Committee, is a docent at the WWII Museum…he is busier than me!
His military career – wow. I apologize for being ignorant of military history, but will do my best here.
* JJ joined the military the day after Pearl Harbor. He tried the Marines and Navy first and they would not take him because of his eyes and then he joined the Army.
* Did his training at Fort Belvoir
* Received a telegram from the Navy that he was report to duty once in the Army. He likes to joke about having served in both.
* He was a wise guy and complained about a roach in his food and ended up with KP duty for a month. He had to clean stuff in the kitchen and scrape the grinder after the cook grinded meat.
* Was in an assault unit and was the first in to 7 different countries. He said he always liked being first and still does.
Omaha (correction) Utah Beach from a Higgins
* Got his first Purple Heart by getting a bayonet to his back. He healed and returned to his unit.
* Most proud of his men as 2 of them in his unit received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
* Had frostbite and returned again to combat.
* Sat in front of General Patton while he was speaking.
* Was on the Siegfried Line in combat, He received his second purple heart when he left a piece of his leg in France he said. He healed and went back to his unit.
* Was commissioned while in theater.
* Worked at a Misplaced Persons Camp and after the war ended decided it was time to go home. You needed 19 points to leave and he had earned 20 as the Purple Heart gave him extra points.
* Left the military as a Captain.
* Tried to go back for the Korean War but they would not take him.
* Two Purple Hearts, four Bronze Stars, two Presidential Unit citations, a European Campaign medal, a Combat Infantryman’s badge and scores of other military decorations.
He also told me so much about his personal life, his career, his wife that passed away, and his children. I told JJ that I would be his traveling companion ANY TIME!!! I look forward to getting together with him in New Orleans – I will make it a point to do so!
c/p at Hooah Wife and Friends