my uncle the war hero

Uncles Jasper and Jep Fortney

Uncles Jasper and Jep Fortney

Saturday at the library, I checked out the latest book by Ray Bradbury called We’ll Always Have Paris . I was aching to read the myriad of short stories Bradbury collected over the years.

As I opened the book, my dad called and little did I know I’d hear the story of my uncle, Jasper Fortney, a war hero.

Uncle Jasper and his twin brother, Jep, were in the 112th Calvary unit out of Texas. Jasper served for almost 3 years in New Guinea and the South Pacific.

In 1944, they covered force operations at the River Driniumor as detailed here in Dr. Edward J. Drea’s Leavenworth Papers No. 9.

Pvt. Jasper Fortney

Pvt. Jasper Fortney

As the Japanese advanced, Jasper found an abandoned mortar on the side of a road. Instead of running away which would have been the most logical thing to do, he picked up the pipe and loaded the shells, firing the mortars at the Japanese until they retreated.

Jasper received the Silver Star, the third highest military decoration. Only 6 months before his heroism he was just an 18-year-old farm boy from Kentucky.

From a ship in the harbor, he saw the signing to end the war. After his service, he came home with malaria. My cousin Kim, Jasper’s daughter, wrote me, “Daddy always said God was with him because many times Daddy should have been dead.”

Uncle Jasper passed away on May 27, 2004. Five years after his death I hear this act of bravery for the first time. My dad said in the last stages in his life he put up with pain because he didn’t know any alternative.

And the doctors who helped relieve that pain never knew they worked on a war hero. My uncle.

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

~Moina Michael


One comment

  1. Lisa Frank · August 28, 2009

    This is a wonderful story – so often we don’t hear the stories of the past – what a gift to pass on to your family and readers.


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