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Veterans Day memorial

Contributions from Co-op readers recognize veterans
By Glen Liford, Editor 9/30/2019

 

Buddy Edmondson entered the Army in January 1944 and was captured by the enemy in October.
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Last month in this column, I asked our readers to honor veterans from their own families by sharing their experiences. You will find those stories beginning on page 24. I briefly mentioned my own family’s contribution in last month’s column, and I want to share the rest of the story here.

My uncle Buddy (Bud) Edmondson was a World War II veteran and, at least to most of the family, shared very little detail of his experiences. Most of what we know was gleaned from the scrapbook his sister, Fern, kept while he was a prisoner of war. The two were only 15 months apart in age and were very close. My mother Peggy was born when they were 15 and 16, respectively, so they felt almost like parents to their little sister.

Bud was only 18 years old when he was drafted into the Army after Army and was inducted on Jan. 4, 1944.. I knew him as quiet and easy going, and he was known for his mischievous nature as he liked to poke fun at other members of the family. At 18, he was grounded in his faith, and it bothered him that his dad, Glen, was not attending church at the time.

Bud completed basic training at Camp Shelby, Miss., and was sent overseas in September. On Oct. 24, the family received the wire explaining he was MIA (missing in action), and his fate was unknown until a second message arrived on Jan. 1, 1945, stating he was confirmed as a prisoner of the German government. Fern carefully preserved these messages in her scrapbook, along with multiple letters Bud wrote to his family during his captivity. The only letter from his parents to make it through to the young soldier was one informing him that since he had been captured, his dad was now attending church. Most of Bud’s letters seem determined to reassure his folks he was being treated well and was doing fine. Knowing his captors were obviously reading these notes, too, it’s hard to imagine them saying otherwise.

Clippings from the Knoxville newspaper were also included in the scrapbook, and they tell a different story. It was late in the war, and news of the Nazi atrocities, along with pictures of emaciated prisoners from the German camps, were just beginning to be revealed. Prominent in the journal are clippings of lists of local soldiers who had been killed, wounded, or captured.

A letter his squad leader wrote to my grandparents explained he and Bud had been seized Oct. 4 in Holland during Bud’s first battle. He confirmed the story in a rare candid moment with my dad, explaining that in the chaos he lost his rifle and was crawling on the ground looking for it when he was captured. It’s easy to imagine his bad luck in losing his weapon could very well have been the one thing that saved the disarmed soldier’s life.

He later told that from the start of his ordeal as a prisoner in a cramped railway boxcar, he knew he would make it home, as he said God told him he had something to do when he got home. That something turned out to be preaching.

Several years after returning home, he announced his calling and was ordained in 1952. He served as pastor of Little Valley Missionary Baptist Church in Union County at various intervals from then until his death on Sept. 26, 1976, from stomach cancer. He was only 51.

Though he didn’t share details from his ordeal, he once said he would rather see his only son, Darryl, dead than have him endure similar circumstances. Bud was awarded the Purple Heart, the U.S. military citation given to those wounded or killed in combat, but to my knowledge he never spoke of his injuries to the family.



 
 
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