Tomorrow is Memorial Day, a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who have died while serving in the country’s armed forces.
On Memorial Day the flag of the United States is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains until noon. It is then raised to the full-staff for the remainder of the day.
The half-staff position remembers the more than a million men and women who gave their lives in the service of their country.
At noon, their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.
All across this nation there will be celebrations: picnics, floating the Frio, golfing, music, dancing, and for some, just a relaxing holiday from work.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on what life in the United States was like in 1943. Today, in the life of people under 60 years of age, things like fresh meat, sugar, fat, butter, vegetables, fruit, tires, gasoline and fuel oil may be taken for granted.
During the war years, adults were busy collecting scrap metal, aluminum cans and rubber to be recycled, rather than planning trips to the beach. They were also saving money to purchase war bonds. Times were tough, but in comparison to the life of a front-line soldier it was a walk in the park.
Women went to work, baseball and movies went to war, music had a war theme and worried parents huddled around the radio in the evening to get the latest news from the war front.
For the greatest generation, the bombing of Pearl Harbor shoved the U.S. into the war and would forever be “A Date Which Will Live in Infamy,” as voiced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
WAYNE D. HOWARD
There were 104 ultimate sacrifices made by Uvalde young men during World War II. Wayne David Howard was one of those brave young men.
Howard was a Uvalde High School senior, perhaps looking forward to graduation, starting a career and – at some point in time – a family.
He was a star athlete on the football team, playing multiple positions for Coach W.D. “Pappy” Drennan. The sixth game of the season found the Coyotes making a trip to Hondo to take on the Owls in a district grudge match. It ended in a victory for the Coyotes by a 2-0 margin, and it was Howard, with the help of his defensive teammates, that stopped the vaunted Owl offense.
Just two weeks earlier Howard had thrown a touchdown pass for the Coyotes’ only score against Eagle Pass. The week prior to that he had gained valuable yardage as a running back to help Uvalde beat Carrizo Springs 7-0.
On the way home from Hondo, Howard told Jack Harrell, a teammate and close friend, “You will be starting next week because I am enlisting.”
True to his word, Howard entered the service in San Antonio on Nov. 19, 1943. Little did he know that he would not live to see another Nov. 19.
Less than one year after enlisting, Howard was killed in action, on Nov. 10, 1944, somewhere in the vicinity of Metz, France.
PFC Wayne D. Howard was in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and had been overseas since August of 1944. He was 19 years old and was in the middle of one of the fiercest battles of liberating France.
In a letter dated Oct. 7, 1944, to his brother Cole, Howard said, “Can’t do much writing, in the middle of some big guns,” and he went on to say, “I think every branch of the service is damn sure doing a good job over here.”
It was his last correspondence.
Howard’s Infantry Regiment in the 80th Infantry Division of General George Patton’s 3rd Army was attempting to displace the Nazis from their stronghold in Metz.
Hitler had issued orders that the garrison in Metz was to fight to the last man, and that’s just about what happened.
On Nov. 10, 1944, Wayne David Howard, 19 years old, the fifth and youngest child of Cora Lee and Vaughn Howard of Uvalde, Texas, was killed during hostile action somewhere in the Metz, France, area.
Estimation of casualties for both sides unknown, but it was extremely high. Despite Hitler’s orders, over 10,000 German soldiers were taken prisoner.
On Nov. 25, Patton entered the city in a triumphal procession, more reminiscent of a conqueror from antiquity than a 20th-century general. He boasted that he was the first commander to capture Metz since Attila the Hun in 415.
“Your deeds in the battle of Metz will fill the pages of history for a thousand years,” he told his men.
Howard wasn’t around to hear those words, and it was little solace to the Howard family back in Uvalde.
Howard was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously and is buried in the old section of Uvalde Cemetery next to his parents.
His father, Vaughn, refused to accept the body when it arrived home.
“That’s not the way I sent him to you,” was his reasoning. His mother tearfully accepted her son’s remains.
Cora Ann Howard Fowler, Wayne’s niece, named one of her sons Kirby Wayne Fowler, after her uncle.
Jack Harrell, the high school buddy with whom Wayne shared his decision to enlist, also named his son Wayne as a tribute to a young man who never got to live out his dreams because he sacrificed them for us.