The War Hero
Cher Ami, my hero, whom I admired and strove to emulate . . .
His noble calling occurred during World War I when he was pressed into service as a top aide-de-camp and courier for his country. Known for his valor and courage under fire, Cher Ami valiantly accepted dangerous missions that few other soldiers would—unless they had a death wish or were foolhardy enough to think they were invincible.
Although he was the youngest to enlist in This Man’s Army, Cher Ami was not inexperienced, having sailed through boot camp and following notable skirmishes with flying colors. Short is stature and prone to flights of fancy in his earlier years, he was not a likely candidate for the rigors of war. But what he lacked in physical prowess he more than made up for in cunning, meticulous speed and the uncanny ability to “fly under the radar” of enemy troops.
Cher Ami’s wife, Martha, the love of his life, recognized his passion and patriotism but had not always supported his initial exploits, fear for his safety being her constant companion.
“Can’t someone else go this time?” very pregnant Martha queried, “our baby needs a father as well as a mother. What if . . .”
“Don’t get your feathers ruffled, ma cherie. I feel God’s blessing upon me. I will return to you, never fear.”
And, Cher Ami did return over and over again, much to his family’s relief. It seemed he was not unlike a cat with nine lives. He became adept at bullet dodging and developed increasing agility and speed as experience sharpened his skills, much like a dull knife sharpened against a grinding stone. His most noble feat involved single-handedly saving a lost battalion of American soldiers by alerting commanders of their plight, German soldiers having surrounded them.
“Cease fire! Outgoing!” the familiar cries of battle enveloped him.
Cher Ami was shot in the chest and the leg, but continued the 25 minute flight avoiding shrapnel and poison gas to accomplish his assignment. For bravery and valor while he flew this mission through a torrent of bullets, he was awarded the French Cross of War Medal, which Martha proudly displayed on the fireplace mantle.
Now, caught up in the throes of World War II, I had the privilege of applying my set of skills as G. I. Joe, a connoisseur of transporting coded and de-coded messages across the Front to army headquarters. Unlike Cher Ami, I was unmarried and unencumbered, which made me a desirable candidate for dangerous exploits. Unfortunately, it also contributed to my cavalier attitude about personal safety.
Many of my comrades were killed within a few weeks of active duty, putting things in a more cautious perspective. I loved my country and although I reveled in adrenalin rushes in the heat of battle, I hated war. Nevertheless, I honed my concentration to a tunnel vision sort of existence, aiming my entire attention on targets designated by my flight simulator and trainer, a retired and highly decorated colonel who specialized in de-coding enemy transmissions. Colonel Parker and I, in spite of my lowly rank, grew to respect and trust each other, paramount to our missions when soldiers’ lives hung in the balance. He wrote the tiny scripted notes, attaching them to my leg in tiny capsules while I impatiently awaited his familiar command,
“Cease fire! Outgoing!”
The most notable accomplishment of my military career occurred in the autumn of 1943. British troops were trying to advance on the German held town of Colvi Veccia and an aerial bombing had been ordered there by the allies. In the meantime, German resistance fell and British soldiers overtook the city, making them targets of the scheduled bombing. Colonel Parker scribbled a panicked note and ordered my dispatch forthwith. There were 150 soldiers’ lives in jeopardy as I launched out into the soot-darkened sky to deliver the order to cancel the operation. In the record speed of twenty miles in twenty minutes, I landed at the headquarters' pigeon lofts just in time to save the British soldiers from disaster by less than five minutes to spare!
Over this long and intensive war, I was recognized for saving a total of 1,000 soldiers by my efficient flights, earning me the distinctive ‘Dickin’ Medal of Bravery.
Homing Pigeon Tidbits:
Released at sea, can fly 100 miles at up to 60 m.p.h.
Can sense magnetic north.
Use the sun as their compass.
Smell their lofts at a distance.
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