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3AD Association Reunion, 2002, Grand Rapids, MI
Paul Puryear
formerly U.S. Marine Corps and son of Luke Puryear,
3AD WWII veteran of "I" Co, 33rd Armored Regiment

  PREFACE by Website Staff: Eloquent and from the heart, this is a very special tribute to both his father and the entire Division by the son of a 3AD WWII soldier who died from war wounds.

Published in 3AD Association Newsletter - June, 2003


First I would like to thank Mr. Bob Stager for extending to me the opportunity to come and speak at this memorial service.

I was reading through the various materials provided to me to get a look at information about The Spearhead Division. To give me a broader background in details of the history of the 3rd Armored Division. More information than that which I tried to remember my father telling me years ago. Something to add to the stories my Daddy told me, and that I have heard many of you here, today tell. That I have heard from many who are no longer with us tell.

And I noticed, among other things, I am the 55th person to stand up here and speak at a memorial service like this. I do not think I can say anything different or give you any more information than did those 54 speakers before me. I do believe I can give you a glimpse of my impressions of this memorial service and how important are the achievements and the lives of those that have gone before, who we memorialize today, and each and everyone of you, to me.

In looking at the material I was provided, such items as The Spearhead in the West, two things struck me as especially important or noteworthy. First was the point that time and again this division earned its name, its moniker, the hard way. The 3rd Armored Division earned its name, by achievement and cost. The second fact that hit home, over and over again, was that this division suffered more grievous casualties than any other armored division in the war.

You assembled here and these men who we honor today earned the name The Spearhead Division. By their - and your - actions. By their sacrifices and often at the ultimate cost of their very lives. Those who died in combat in Europe. And those like my own Daddy, who died way too young as a result of injuries and wounds they suffered in that conflict. And many of you, here today, carry wounds from those days.

I noticed in reading about such actions as the breakthrough at St. Lo, the drive across France, the horrible winter in the Ardennes, blunting the attempt by Hitler's best to break out at the Battle of the Bulge - counterattacking and throwing them back, the advance into Germany, the movement into the Ruhr. Time and again, in action after action, these men (who are no longer here) and you were The Spearhead of the Allied forces in action.

I noticed often there were comments about elements of the 3rd Armored Division which were pulled away to serve with other units, infantry units, other elements of the 7th Corps, the 2nd Armored division or allied units. And always it was noted that those elements of the 3rd Armored Division were always used as The Spearhead. You and they, were the tip of the lance, the point of the weapon aimed at Hitler's heart.

It is not these men who did not survive. Oh yes, many died in battle. And many of your comrades-in-arms have died since. Some, like my father, as a direct result of wounds they received in combat. It is Hitler who did not survive.

You pierced, they pierced, the armor of the Nazi juggernaut. It wasn't his supermen, his Third Reich, his Thousand-year Reich, his master race that won and survived. It was those men we honor today. And it was you. Farm boys, men from coal mines and steel mills, men who worked in foundries and mills and industries, college students and kids right out of high school who had not started their lives yet. Men who worked in businesses, doctors and lawyers and small businessmen. You put down the tools of your trades. You set aside the opportunities at an immediate future for you and your families. And you went off to war. And some did not return.

My memorial to those men who died in Europe in that great conflict, to those who have passed on since and also to each and every one of you, is my thanks and gratitude. And there is more for me to say about this.

My Daddy died of a cerebral hemorrhage that was directly related to the head wound he received the first day his unit had crossed into Germany. Because of that I was able to finish my senior year at Texas A&M receiving survivor's benefits under the G.I. Bill. And then, after my first tour of active duty I was able to go on to graduate school and work on two graduate degrees, using at that time my own G.I. benefits. But those benefits existed because of the efforts men like you and those we honor today. There are men who fought in this division and who died in Europe and who never got the opportunity to come home and go to college or trade school. Or who never got the chance to come back and finish an interrupted education.

I got the opportunity they earned. And I am forever grateful.

There is a memorial that I want to give to them and to you. And, I must admit, to all your generation. Those who went to fields far away, to every comer of the globe. To serve and, in some cases, die. Or, as with my Daddy and many of you, suffered grievous wounds. And - also - those who had to stay at home and worry about those of you in far-off places. Those who had to pour their work and prayers into supporting you in the field of battle. Who did everything they could to help here at home and support the war effort to defeat one of the greatest evils that ever existed in the history of mankind. The wives and girlfriends, the parents and children and all the families and friends who had to stay behind and work so diligently to support those in the front lines.

I am named - in part - for a man who was burned alive in a tank. My father and his friends could not get into the tank to pull him out when his tank was hit by a direct round from a Nazi gun. Every day I do not forget.

I hope as you walk out of here later and go to eat somewhere, at some restaurant, or go get gas or stop at a convenience store and no one asks you for identity papers, no one stops you and harasses you in your daily comings and goings - know that I remember that it is the efforts of people such as yourselves that saw to it that it is that way. May I never forget. And I hope no one else will. We all, from my generation on, owe you that debt of gratitude I speak of so much.

From Washington and his troops at Valley Forge the baton of battle was handed on to you. You picked up that baton, that burden and you carried it with honor. You and those we honor today did your duty and did it well. You served, you survived, and you succeeded.

When I was introduced it was noted that I served in the United States Marine Corps. And it was mentioned to have pity on me for being from The Corps. My father himself would not have understood my decision to enter The Corps. But in the Marine Corps when all Marines meet other Marines we have a saying we invoke whenever greeting each other, "Semper Fi," a shortened version of the Latin "Semper Fidelis" which, as I am certain you all already know, means "Always Faithful."

My promise to you, and my hope, is that I and all my generation, and all to follow; your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and all the generations to come will always exhibit in our words and our deeds the spirit of Semper Fidelis towards you and those we honor today. To all of your generation and the efforts made by you. Those who went to war. Those who stayed at home and worked for and prayed for the safe return of those so far away. May we always be faithful to the dreams and ideals that you helped to keep alive. Fear and terror did not win, hope and opportunity did. You, all of you, made this happen. As did those we honor today.

Over the years I have come to about thirty of these Reunions. When here I have noticed three things exhibited by you and by many who are no longer here with us today. I always noticed forgiveness and compassion, two qualities I often found lacking in myself. And I have tried to learn from my parents and from many of you how to be more forgiving and compassionate.

And there was an enormity of love. Love for your families, love for each other, love for those we honor today. And a genuine and pure love for your country.

If there is a memorial I can give to them and you, it is not by standing up here and talking. And ladies and gentlemen I could stand up here and speak forever (and those who know me will tell you I tend to do just that) and I still could not convey the proper memorial with all my words.

The memorial I think which is far more fitting than anything I can say is the living country (the United States of America) existing here within these halls, within each of us. And, more importantly, right outside the doors of this room and this hotel. Out there, the country that lives and survives and goes on and on.

Hitler did not win - he is long since dead and gone. And, yes, many of your comrades died over there. And many more of your generation have passed on since. But they all live on in the country that they and you fought for. This country lives on and so do its ideals and dreams. And the promise that it holds out for the world.

We make many mistakes. I and the first one to admit that. This country makes mistakes because we never quit trying. But this country, this experiment in democracy lives on, because of them and because of all of you. And all of your generation.

The Thousand Year Reich did not last. What is lasting, what survived is this country. This country that you, and those we honor today, served. You and they went willingly, you and they did your duty. You and they (those we memorialize and remember - for we will never forget) did this country honor. So many of those we gather to remember today paid the ultimate price for all those things that exist right outside those doors and within here for all of us.

And what am I talking about? All those rights and freedoms we all often take way too much for granted. The fact that we will all go to sleep tonight and none of us will worry about someone kicking in our door and dragging us away. Later today around 4 PM or so, there will be several church services. We can all go to whichever one we want to. And can even hop from service to service if we so desire. Or you can just go outside in the street and look up and thank God just for letting you be here. Or if you want you don't have to do anything at all. And no one is going to tell you that you have to and no one is going to tell you that you can't.

That is the legacy you, and those we honor today, earned through your sacrifices and efforts. And that far too often was paid for through the ultimate sacrifice of those we gather to remember at this time. That is what you, and your generation, earned for me and all the generations after me to come.

You and those we honor today demonstrated that love by saving the world. You, with your blood and sweat, and many of them with their very lives. Then you came home and built the most powerful economic machine the world has ever seen. You came back to your farms and businesses, your unions and your trade associations, your small shops and your big enterprises. You built the greatest economy ever to exist. That economy helped to rebuild much of the war-torn world, even the countries of your former enemies. And that economy was in large part the foundation for the destruction of the second great evil of our time - Soviet Communism.

So much of what will come in the future, so much of what I get to enjoy, that which my children and all those to come will get to enjoy, are the benefits resulting from your sacrifices, your efforts. And of those who we honor today.

In ending I want to leave you with a saying I first heard when I was very young. My Daddy was Baptist. And occasionally we would go to Tabernacle out in the little town of Poolville on the starting edge of what is West Texas. When the meeting was over the Preacher would close with a saying that the assembled congregation would respond back to in kind.

He would say, "And, may the peace of the Lord God Eternal be with you." And the gathering would say back to him "And with you." I am going to change that a little as I am going to do both parts. The first I will speak to those we honor here today and then, the second part, to you assembled here in this memorial.

(To those we honor) "And may the peace of the Lord God Eternal be with you..." (To those of you in attendance) "And, with each and everyone of you..."

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