A few years ago, I sat next to an elderly gentleman while waiting for my Chiropractic appointment. He had beautiful blue eyes and a gentle temperament. His name was Louis. He was the sweetest man. Each week, our appointments coincided and I began to look forward to our chats. In fact, I enjoyed them so much, I came earlier and earlier to be able to talk with him. He served in the Army in World War II. We began to talk about a project I was working on, a writing group for veterans. We talked about the experiences of being military, the challenges of coming home after seeing an active war zone, etc. It was months before he began to really share. I asked him once if there was one thing he wish he could share with people. He looked to the floor and sighed. When he looked up at me, his beautiful blue eyes were clouded with tears- “You can not begin to imagine seeing those boys on the beach. The smells in the air, the sounds. We were all so scared. Can’t even imagine it. And I can’t forget it. “.
“They were just kids.”
I sat quietly listening week after week as Louis shared small snippets of his experience during the landing at Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, his time in boot camp.
Each story was packaged in a well rehearsed way- with enough information to be interesting but always just a very high level accounting of life in the military- it felt like reading a text book.
One day, Lou and I talked about a young vet I had been talking with. I told Louis how that vet had compared talking about the war with taking out the garbage- it always pollutes something else. But that after one particular conversation- he shared more than he had ever done before and told me how much better he felt. That while he still had trouble sleeping, it was better than it had been.
Lou began to share a reoccurring nightmare he had of the death of one of his friends. His friend, a farm boy from Nebraska had taken the woolen cloak of a fallen German solider.
‘It was just so cold you see- he didn’t take it as a souvenir- he took it to stay warm.“ Late one night- a new member of his squad came upon his friend sleeping in the woods.
“ He stabbed that boy with his bayonet- I will never forget the look on his face when he realized what he had done. It was terrible.” Louis let out a deep sigh and rose from his seat to leave.
Shaking his head he looked at me and said, ”No one needs to hear those things. Those are stories better left unsaid.”
When he left the room, his wife quietly said “I have known Lou for over 60 years. I never heard those stories. He never says a word about the war. Not a word.”
I sat in my chair for what seemed like forever. I was still processing what had just happened.
Today- in honor of the 70 anniversary of the Landing at Normandy, I ask you to say a pray for Lou’s wife, Bernice. Lou died during this hard winter. Leaving a legacy of love and joy in his wake. He was a happy man than embraced life each day- because he was taught as a young man what was at stake.
louis f. horwath Born: August 21, 1917; Chicago, IL Died: January 11, 2014; Wonder Lake, IL Louis F. Horwath, age 96, of Wonder Lake, died Saturday, January 11, 2014, at Centegra Hospital-McHenry. He was born August 21, 1917 in Chicago to Michael and Therese (Prangle) Horwath. Raised in Chicago, he was a veteran of the U.S. Army. He served during World War II and was awarded a Bronze Star and 4 Campaign Medals as part of the Normandy invasion on D-Day, and also part of subsequent campaigns. Louis also was with U.S. troops at the Belgian town of Bastogne as part of the Battle of the Bulge. He enjoyed a 33-year career at the Sunbeam Corporation, where he worked in Quality Control. In 1952, Louis was introduced to his future wife, Bernice M. Meyer, through a co-worker, who happened to be Bernice ‘s choir director at church. They later married on March 22, 1958 at Grace Lutheran Church in Chicago. In 1980, they moved to Wonder Lake, where he and Bernice enjoyed their retirement years. Louis enjoyed working with stained glass, and over the years, made several treasured gifts for his family. Always one to keep busy, he also refinished furniture, did wallpapering, as well as helped with many household chores. He was an avid golfer, and enjoyed winning several trophies for his excellent golfing. Louis and his wife traveled extensively. They visited every state in the U.S., and traveled to Europe 24 times. A favorite destination was Austria, where they visited the home his mother was born in, as well as Italy, Switzerland, and Greece. His family was an important part of his life. Louis enjoyed hosting his nieces and nephews at their annual Christmas Eve gatherings. He will be remembered by family and friends for a wonderful sense of humor, quick wit, and his love of joking with people wherever he went. Louis was a faithful member of the Wonder Lake Bible Church in Wonder Lake. A memorial service followed by military honors was held to honor his memory.
Karen Gernaey said:
A beautiful tribute to an outstanding man. What a real privilege for both of you to have known each other! Thanks so much for sharing that poignant story,
Thank you for sharing the story of Louis. I will remember him in prayer and thanks.