Don Smith, a longtime Hotchkiss resident now living in Delta with his wife, Lois, was honored as a special guest during Veterans Day observances at Cedaredge High School on Nov. 11.
Smith, 94, served as a combat medic in World War II.
He participated in three Allied amphibious landings. The third one was at Anzio, Italy.
Smith was captured at Anzio and then spent 439 days as a prisoner of war at an internment camp in Poland.
"They put us to work growing potatoes for Hitler's soldiers," he said. Conditions were bad, even brutal, in the camp's confinement. He recalls the prison camp was liberated the day that Franklin Roosevelt died.
Smith wrote a memoir of his experiences titled "Medic Up Front," which was the cry of infantrymen on the front lines of the battle when a comrade was wounded. The medics followed infantry at the rear until they were called, Smith said.
"There would be bullets flying all around and you had to keep your head down and stay low," he said. "You had to work right there laying in the dirt and get them patched up while they were there on the ground where they fell."
Smith tells of meeting Lois during a horseback ride outing before the war. "It was love at first sight, you might say," Don recalls.
It was their only encounter before he was shipped overseas with his unit, the 3rd Infantry Division.
He and Lois kept in touch through the war. He recalls that she sent him a package of cookies for Christmas one November. The Army moved him around so often at war's end that the cookies never caught up with him until the following March, and by then he was back in the States, had a date with Lois, and the two were happily married. They raised twin sons together, Don said.
After the war, a relative helped talk Don into buying 100 acres of farm ground at Hotckhiss. "It was a lot of money, $13,000," he recalls. But the relative helped Don with the down payment.
He farmed it for 45 years and grew Moravian beer barley for Adolph Coors Company. In 2000 he sold his farm to a buyer who was willing to give him $8,000 an acre for the place. Don just smiles and shakes his head at the thought.
Don and Lois live together at Crossroads in Delta. His service during WWII was honored with an ovation during the Veterans Day assembly at Cedaredge High School on Nov. 11.blog comments powered by Disqus