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I'm glad I had the chance to meet Willis Irvin Jr.

Posted: February 19, 2012 - 12:00am  |  Updated: February 19, 2012 - 10:25am

While it would be among my better accomplishments to say I had met Willis Irvin Jr., I’m pretty sure it doesn’t make me unique.

I got the idea Irvin has met an awful lot of people, and Steve Crawford’s story on his life, and death, last week in The Chronicle spelled that out.

I met Irvin under somewhat unusual circumstances. He was manning a table in Publix one afternoon, autographing and selling copies of his autobiography.

We had a fascinating conversation, and I bought a copy of the coffee-table-sized paperback. Later, whenever I’d mention that I’d met him, people who knew Irvin generally would raise a bemused eyebrow.

Yes, he was just a tad eccentric. That’s certainly reflected in his book, The Point of the Arrow: A Soldier’s Memories of World War II.

Irvin was a lot of things during his life: A tennis coach and teacher, a historian, a minister. But perhaps the pivotal part of his life, and thus the topic of his autobiography, was the time he spent as a soldier in World War II, fighting with the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Armored Division.

This was a man who landed in Normandy and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and not only lived to tell about it, but wrote his life’s story afterward – while proudly displaying the medals he’d received, especially his Silver Star and two Purple Hearts.

Plenty of other people have experienced similar exploits. There are hundreds of books from participants in World War II. But somehow it just strikes me as unfair that a genuine American hero would have to pay to publish his own book to tell his piece of that important story. And that he’d have to sit at a table in a grocery store to sell it.

It also seems somewhat out of whack that Irvin’s passing at Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home would go unremarked except for a story in his local paper – while a drugged-out, washed-up singer who died the same week in a hotel room on the other side of the country would attract global attention.

Certainly, Whitney Houston did a fine job entertaining us, while it lasted. She was a wonderful singer who died too young. But Willis Irvin Jr. fought for our freedom. That certainly makes him worthy of remembering. And it makes me proud that I met him.

 

Meanwhile, 15-year-old Hunter Miller undoubtedly will be considered a hero to his 3-year-old little brother.

A student at Augusta Christian Schools where he participates in its new Medical Health Sciences Academy, Hunter stepped in to save his little brother, CJ., last month when the youngster had a severe allergic reaction after eating a cashew.

Their mom, who was celebrating her birthday, found CJ with swelling and difficulty breathing after he’d eaten a single cashew. Thanks to his classes, Hunter recognized the symptoms of anaphylactic shock, grabbed an epi pen and gave his little brother a shot in the leg.

CJ took an eventful ambulance ride to the hospital, but is doing just fine now thanks in part to his big brother’s quick thinking.

Great job, Hunter.

 

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/
barrypaschal.)

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