By now, most of us have read Tom Brokaw’s books on the “Greatest Generation” – the men and women who fought for freedom during World War II. I’d like to add my own chapter to his wonderful collection of stories.
I recently attended a memorial service in Texas for my uncle Stanley Marwil (my mother’s only brother). As a part of the service, his two sons (my cousins) spoke eloquently about their father who was a quiet, unassuming man with a wry sense of humor.
Uncle Stanley was a 1943 graduate of Texas A&M with a degree in chemical engineering. As a newly minted second lieutenant in Army artillery, he was sent to California to train with his unit awaiting orders to go overseas.
One afternoon, he was ordered to conduct a weapons class the next morning for infantry soldiers. He had never worked with a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) and stayed up all night studying the weapon. By morning he could show his class how to disassemble and reassemble a BAR blindfolded.
He so impressed his superior officers that he was offered the opportunity to remain stateside as a training officer rather than being shipped out to the Pacific. He turned down the safe stateside duty and insisted on staying with his unit, the Americal Division. He spent the next two years in the Pacific fighting the Japanese.
The memorial service was simple but elegant…a fitting tribute to a modest, loyal American. There was a large spray of maroon and white flowers (Aggie colors) on the pulpit. At the end of the service, everyone walked out to the music of the A&M school song and to the stirring march, Simper Fidelis.
My uncle Stanley never discussed his military service. After the memorial service, we all went over to his house. I couldn’t help but notice the medal display case proudly mounted just inside the house next to the front door. It contained a Bronze Star and a multitude of other medals and decorations. The Americal Division took part in many of the major island campaigns during the last two years of the war.
When my uncle Stanley returned from the war, he went back to A&M where he earned a masters in chemical engineering. He then began a long and distinguished career with Phillips Petroleum.
While working for Phillips, he earned patents for a number of innovations including Marlex (named for him) which is a synthetic used to this day in surgery and some fundamental processes in the development of plastics.
One of his sons told a story about how my uncle was once asked by Phillips to come up with a solution to a particularly vexing manufacturing problem that could wind up costing the company millions. After working on the problem intensively on location, he wired his boss back at headquarters that he had the solution and that he had gotten his inspiration from an Old Testament verse in the Bible. I don’t know what his boss thought about invoking scripture but the solution worked.
There were millions of men just like my uncle Stanley who fought for our freedom during World War II. It’s hard to imagine what our world would be like if we had not been able to produce soldiers like him.
Our country has been divided over the necessity of subsequent wars in Vietnam and Iraq; however, we should never forget to honor the men and women who wear our uniform.
Even if you are opposed to our current involvement in Iraq, always remember to thank the men and women who are risking their lives in the Middle East and always honor the memory of those who have given their lives.
The decision to go to war is made by politicians. If you don’t like what’s happened, express your feelings at the ballot box but never dishonor the young soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors who are sent by their country into harm’s way.
Martin Frost served in Congress from 1979 to 2005, representing a diverse district in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. He served two terms as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the third-ranking leadership position for House Democrats, and two terms as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frost serves as a regular contributor to FOX News Channel and is a scholar in residence at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from the Georgetown Law Center.