Gold Star Dads was honored today to play a small part in making life a little bit more bearable for a WWII Army Veteran whose home was flooded by Harvey. The flood waters destroyed not only his home but his electronic wheelchair, his only means of mobility.
As part of our Patriot ReAct efforts in Houston we came across a lead to a Battle of the Bulge Veteran, James Statham, whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.
I spoke with James’ sons Frank & Tim the week after Harvey receded. Because of other commitments our Patriot ReAct team wouldn’t be able to start on his Houston home until September 9th. No problem; In stepped 2nd Baptist Church and their crew of 18 volunteers who made short order of the 4′ high wall tear out and clean up.
I asked Tim how we could still help and the conversation went to the wheelchair dilemma. I was informed that the insurance was dragging their feet on an “approved” replacement and James needed it replaced now. So, he did what any other veteran of that area would do, he bought one himself!
There is no way I was going to stand back and let a 92 year old WWII Hero pay for his own wheelchair. So LIGHT BULB moment, quick GSD Board meeting, Gold Star Dads would just pay for that chair. Today I had the great honor of meeting with SGT James Statham and I want to share just a little of his story.
SGT James Statham – 78th Infantry Division – Mortar man
In November 1943, on his 18th birthday James Statham reported for duty in the US Army. By his 19th he was in Europe preparing for what turned out to be one of the bloodiest battles of the war. On December 16, three German armies (more than a quarter-million troops) launched the deadliest and most desperate battle of the war. American units were caught flat-footed and fought desperate battles for 26 days to stem the German advance.
Jim doesn’t like to talk much about the war. “My unit took heavy casualties. . . between KIA’s and critically injured we lost almost 75% of our platoon, on two different occasions I was shot. . . I don’t have fond memories.”
The Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II.
After the Battle of the Bulge SGT Statham was chosen as part of General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famed Honor Guard in Berlin. We went from grungy, muddy, tired and sweaty to “spit & Polish” he told me.
After the war he took his wife, $300 severance and headed to Lubbock, TX to work as a mechanic. I asked about parades and celebrations like we see in the Hollywood movies? He just shook his head and smiled, “we just wanted to get on with life” he said.
SGT James Statham earned two Purple Heart medals while serving in Europe, worked two 25 year careers and survived three hurricanes. I asked him about his greatest accomplishment in life “I have been blessed to marry two beautiful women whom in turn blessed me with 4 children, 12 grand-children and 22 great grand-children.” His biggest regrets? “the things I’ve said and done that I know I shouldn’t have”
This has been an amazing experience meeting James, it was like talking with my grandfather or great uncle. I wish you could all meet him in person. Thank You Sir!
Read other accounts of the Patriot ReAct Team