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Friday, July 28, 2006 

Uncle J.R.

This one is true with no embellishments

Another of my uncles died recently. He was 90 something and it was his time.
He grew up poor as dirt, maybe poorer than dirt. He somehow made it through the depression with parents who had nothing and were out of work. He made it through high school and went to work at one of the local steel plants. He made enough money to become a player back in the late 1930s. He was known as a character, prone to taking a drink of moonshine or whatever he could get back then. He also was known for being a snappy dresser and having one of the most complicated hairstyles of the day.
He started dating my aunt. My dad says that it was not a fun time in the Snagley household when they were dating. My grandfather could not stand the site of him and would go to the back yard and chop wood whenever he would come over.

Then came WWII. My Aunt and Uncle married and he was shipped hither and yon. My dad was already in the war for 2 years when my Uncle was drafted. Uncle J.R. as he was called spent many months training and was then shipped directly to the front lines in preparation for the battle of the bulge. He was green as grass as were many of the front line troops at the bulge. He was in the thickest fighting without proper winter gear for weeks. He was involved in hand-to-hand and bayonet fighting and served his country with distinction. His scars were not the visible kind, as he told me. It takes something from a man to kill another with a knife or a bayonet. In his first engagement he was the only man from his outfit that survived. He said the Germans did not know that he was the only one left as he kept firing and moving as best he could from mud hole to mud hole. He went on to serve in some of the fiercest fighting door-to-door and village-to-village for the remainder of the war. Somehow he managed to not get killed, and no one knows how.

When he came home, he could not sleep in a bed he slept on the floor by his bed with a blanket. He had slept in a tent for the past 3 years. He started a metal fabrication business after working in a metal shop for a while. He built it into the industry standard for all bidding in the southeast and beyond.

Somewhere along the way he tamed his wild ways and became a pillar of the community. He never had any children.

My cousin is a professional musician, he plays the trumpet. Uncle J.R. always asked him to play for him and only ever asked for Taps to be played.
He played taps at his funeral. I cried and I am not ashamed of it.

He loved his country and was proud of his service and sacrifice for his country. And he did sacrifice 4 years of his life and whatever innocence he had left during WWII.

Goodbye Uncle J.R.