Ralph Charles Whitley, Sr.
The American Legion "U.S.S. Tampa"
07/25/2002 1900 Hours
My step-father Harry George Nicholson, ex-army machine gunner from Hempstead New York, died in 1972 and this older veteran was the spitting image of this great man... His speech and mannerism were exactly the same as my father's and quite frankly I quietly but obviously cried under sunglasses in front of these two people at the VA. My conversation shuddered and my lips quivered as the grief overtook me for a few minutes. Adding to the fact that I was relating what I had told Robert Becker that he once asked me about what "medal" I thought he should receive.... and I replied quickly "Watch the old films of the Airborne Units marching in New York at the parade... these survived and each face reflects a medal to honor you for your contribution as a 13 year old!" As I told that the tears just flushed my eyes for a moment until I could regain my composure. To be seated right beside a member of the Airborne unit who actually packed the dummies for shipment and survived Normandy.... another Medal for Bob!
Neither individual really knew how emotional it was for me to remember my father fondly reflected in this veterans face and mannerisms... plus the tears of thankfulness that Robert Becker saved all of those paratroopers, support men and women at Normandy by a verifiable act of patriotism which has gone unrewarded... glad I was not in a firefight with tears in my eyes of this magnitude. The tears went away and my salty drops were wiped off of papers in front of me on the pad used to record and transfer e-mail addresses... and the VA Disabled Veterans representative obviously was speechless as to the source of my tears or inability at first to continue a sentence describing the faces as medals for Robert Becker. Guess it has been too long not letting the tears flow... and this was a time worthy of being a veteran with memories worthy of shedding a tear or two. How proud I am to have met this paratrooper and confirmed others were aware of the lives this unselfish 13 year old saved with an idea sworn to secrecy. Another thing which really set me into a tear flow was the response of this older veteran who stated: "There are not many of US left alive anymore who were at Normandy!" How sad but how very true for all countries who were involved in this War.
In 1972 following the death of my step father, I made it to Anzio and could not understand why... maybe Robert Becker will go to Normandy before he dies and think of the thousands of extra white crosses which could have been in those Fields of Honor. I cannot research the number of casualties at Normandy.... and find out the total forces committed for the Invasion at the Beach plus off shore or covering the Invasion for all of the Allied Troops and Resistance forces. The numbers must be in the tens of thousands.... each a true cluster to add to any Medal for Robert Becker and a Gold cluster could indicate ten thousand.... How many clusters to add to the Medal for Robert Becker? Rupert... the French dummy displayed could have received a medal from the French government for the assistance to France during the War.... but no award or medal for the patriotic child of 13 in America.
I certainly look forward to my fellow Legionnaire being recognized properly for his efforts hidden too long from the World.
Now that you know Bob.... Well done Chaplain! I will be waiting to see you properly recognized by all of America and Allies who also lost troops at Normandy plus had the parade of survivors in Foreign Lands without recognizing you and would have suffered untold thousands more had not the "Dummy Paratrooper" been used in Normandy and other areas of the world. The families of the veterans, resistance civilians and inhabitants/residents of these battles and lands who survived will thank you forever.
You gave them additional time with their loved ones who would have been in those fields with white crosses or home in boxes too soon. I am so very proud to know you and honored to share your story with the World.
Finally... Yes Bob! It is indeed alright to cry again after so many years of training and seeing so much killing or dying! Thank you for the tears which cooled my face and reminded me that we all must feel again as children before we die!
First, let me tell you what Merriam Webster says that the definition of a hero is: a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities.
Well ok, I guess that will apply in this case, if I take man to be the generic form meaning man, woman, or child of either sex that has done something that would cause us to admire them for their achievements and noble qualities.
With September 11, 2001 etched in or minds we have many visions of heroes. Let me attempt to paint you a picture of this "silent hero amongst us at Post 5".
The nation was at war. Those not actively engaged in battle were asked to make many sacrifices for those that were fighting to restore the American way of life and bring peace to the world. Citizens of all walks of life were asked by their government through radio broadcasts, mass media, and poster to do what they could to help in the war efforts. One such poster was placed in schools (picture on opposite column) to inspire our youth.
Our hero was already doing something. He was already a member of the Boy Scouts and also was actively participating as a member of the Ground Observer Corp. This group trained people how to recognize and report enemy aircraft. That was still not enough for our hero.
At the age of thirteen our silent hero saw the poster, got inspired, and then did something quite remarkable for a lad of his age. He actually did something. I don't know about you but when I was thirteen I seldom did anything much less something that could very well have changed the outcome of the Normandy invasion and saved untold tens of thousands of American troops.
Our silent hero got creative and came up with an idea, got through all of the paperwork and submitted it to the government's Department of Commerce and received a receipt # 20449 from the National Inventors council.
For many years now, and through many different avenues, proper recognition of Bob's efforts as a youth has been sought. Post 5 adopted a resolution outlining Bob's story and at this years convention it was one of three resolutions adopted and is being forwarded to National. Perhaps they will adopt it and put the political clout of the entire National American Legion behind the efforts to properly recognize this silent hero of Post 5.
In the mean time, we can express to Bob our appreciation and pray that this hero gets his just rewards!
Written by: Buz Barbour
Thank you, for signing Bob Becker's guest book. He will get an e-mail to let him know to check it.