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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, October 12, 2015

Mr. Matz

Blogger's Note: This wonderful little story was submitted to me over the weekend. I am keeping the author's name a secret, although you're free to guess. It is yet another tribute to the Greatest Generation. 

I remember having a neighbor across the street in a German neighborhood of a small Pennsylvania town. His name was Butch Matz. He was an aloof guy and seemed strange to me as a child. But hey, I was a strange kid, who am I to judge? Mr. Matz had an Irish Setter dog named “Red.” He loved that dog and it was obvious. Treated it like a human child, he did. His wife, Dotty, was a little odd too, but we all accepted it. I never saw her leave the second floor of their home. She’d yell out the window to talk over the fence. That’s the best it ever got. They didn’t have any children. Dotty’s mother, Mrs. Spohn, lived across the street. Mrs. Spohn was a tough PA Dutch lady. It was a tight knit community.

One day when I was a troubled teenager, having just dropped out of high school, my Grandmother asked me to go over and help Mr. Matz, who needed his fence painted. Although I loathed working, I respected the sacrifices of my Grandmother and would do anything for her, so I agreed. Upon reporting for the work detail, Mr. Matz had a can of silver coat paint for the chain link fence and a brush. I set into the task on a hot August day in the late 1980’s.

During the laborious process Mr. Matz came outside occasionally to supervise. During one such excursion he enlightened me on the younger days of his life. Oh brother, I thought. He began by telling of the outbreak of WWII and being a young male he felt obligated to enlist to serve his country. He continued in telling the rite of passage in boot camp for he and his platoon of 50 service men. At the end of boot camp training everyone except he and another man got their orders of assignment. He went to his platoon sergeant and inquired about the omission. The sergeant told him not to worry.  The orders; they would come in a few days. He sat idle and eventually his orders did come through and he served in the European Theater. He stated all 48 men in his platoon who received the first set of orders perished on the beaches of Normandy during D-Day.

He said he knew then that his calling was to be a minister. Upon discharge he was a minister in a church and eventually retired. I had no idea and thought, at the time, it was an interesting story. Later, I was to be incredibly impressed. More than 20 years later, and after my own service in the Marine Corps, I came across Mr. Matz’s obituary. He was the recipient of a purple heart and five (5) bronze stars. My eyes welled with tears. He never said a thing about what he did, and no one will probably ever know the specifics. Such an unassuming man, but one never knows. Just the old neighbor next door.

I still own my childhood home. It is vacant and out of respect to the neighbors, and maybe my own unwillingness to let go of the past, it will remain as such. I check on it occasionally and think of the experiences in life’s growth I had there, Mr. Matz being one of them. Thank you Sir, I won’t forget.


Anonymous said...

The Greatest Generation for sure ! Nice article. Thank you .

Anonymous said...

Bernie thanks for posting things like this.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

My father and his five brothers fought in that war and thankfully they all returned to tell their stores to EACH Other. He never talked about anything concerning the war in front of anyone except them. Humble at best, but the greatest generation, I have to agree. Thanks for sharing this story.

Anonymous said...

During the years after the war (World War Two) many of us served in the military, The Korean War, The Viet-Nam War, Desert Storm, Cuban Missile Crisis, and all the other smaller conflicts that didn't have the glory of the First World War or the Second World War, but we served just the same. When we came back to the U.S. and wore our uniforms, we were spit at and called Baby killers. I was in Beirut and Tripoli Libya and Cuba and never fired a shot. Thank God I never had to kill anyone. I saw the devastation of war and the aftermath of dictators eliminating the voice of reason in their Countries. We might not be the greatest generation but we would have laid down our life just like hundreds of thousands of our troops have done before us.

Anonymous said...

We get it, you are wonderful. This uber Militaristic hero worship is almost as bad as not being thankful. As my father a combat veteran of WWII would tell me. it was a job I did came home and moved on.

Anonymous said...

You are one sick bastard that should have remained in a condom so you can't reproduce. Your father just like hundreds of thousand of other young people served their Country and sacrificed years of their lives so you can write asinine comments like your 11:56 PM rant. If you were old enough to remember, our veterans coming back from Viet Nam were spit at and shunned instead of being recognized for their sacrifices and serving their Country. I personally want to Thank every veteran (regardless of what war they fought in) for their service. It is a disgrace what asshole like 11:56 and our own Government are treating our Veterans. We should kiss the ground they walk on.