Mr. Speaker, born in the 1920s, he grew up in the Depression of the 1930s, poor, like more most rural American children. Fresh vegetables were grown in the family garden behind the small frame house. His mother made sandwiches for school out of homemade bread.
Store-bought bread was for the rich. He grew up belonging to the Boy Scouts, playing the trumpet in the high school band, and he went to church on almost all Sundays. In 1944, this 18-year-old country boy, who had never been more than 50 miles from home, quickly found himself going through basic training at the United States Army at Camp Wolters in Camp Wolters, Texas.
After that, he rode a train with hundreds of other young teenagers—American males—to New York City for the ocean trip on a cramped Liberty ship to fight in the great World War II. While crossing the Atlantic, he witnessed another Liberty ship next to his that was sunk by a German U-boat.
As a soldier in the Seventh Army, he went from France to survive the Battle of the Bulge and through the cities of Aachen, Stuttgart, Cologne, and Bonn. As a teenager, he saw the brutal concentration camps of the Nazis and saw the victims. He saw incredible numbers of other teenage Americans buried in graves throughout Europe. A solemn monument to those soldiers is at Normandy.
After Germany surrendered, he was ordered back to Fort Hood, Texas. He was being reequipped for the invasion of Japan. Then Japan surrendered. It was there he met Mom at a Wednesday night prayer meeting service. My mom was a Red Cross volunteer in WWII.
Until a few years ago, this GI—my dad—would never talk about World War II. He still won’t say much, but he does say frequently that the heroes are the ones who are buried today in Europe. After the war was over, he opened a DX service station, where he pumped gas, sold tires, fixed cars, and began a family. Deciding he wanted to go to college, he moved to west Texas and enrolled in a small Christian college named Abilene Christian College.
He and his wife and two small children lived in an old, converted Army barracks with other such families. He supported us by working nights at the KRBC radio station and by climbing telephone poles for Ma Bell, which was later called Southwestern Bell.
He finished college, became an engineer, and worked 40-plus years for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in Houston, Texas. He turned down a promotion and a transfer to New York City because it was not Texas and he didn’t want to raise his family in New York.
Dad instilled in my sister and me the values of being a neighbor to everybody, of loving the USA, of loving our heritage, and of always doing the right thing to all people. He still gets mad at the media. He flies Old Glory on holidays.
He goes to church on Sunday, and he takes Mom out to eat on Friday nights. He stands in the front yard and talks to his neighbors, and he can still fix anything. He can still mow his own grass even though he is 90 years of age. He has a strong opinion on politics and world events.
He gives plenty of advice to everybody, including a lot of advice to me. He has two computers in his home office. He sends emails to hundreds of his buddies all over the world. Dad and Mom still live in Houston, Texas, where I grew up.
So today, Mr. Speaker, as we approach Memorial Day and honor the fallen warriors of all wars, we also honor all who fought in the great World War II and who got to come home. We honor my dad, but also other American warriors.
My dad was one of those individuals of the Greatest Generation. He is the best man I ever met, and he certainly is a charter member of the Greatest Generation. So I hope I turn out like him, Tech Sergeant Virgil Poe, United States Army, good man, good father. That is enough for one life.
And that is just the way it is.