World War II veteran Don Rich has seen a lot of things in his 88 years of life. The Wayland, Iowa native has seen war and its effects first-hand.
Rich was a member of the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division. He traveled to and fought in such places as France, Holland, and most notably Bastogne.
â??Our morale had dropped after being surrounded for 6 days fighting day and night. You finally were at the place where you didnâ??t care anymore. So you get killed, so what,â?? says Rich.
Rich described how tough it was to stay positive when there were dead bodies constantly surrounding him.
Rich was hesitant to make new friends during the war for fear of them being killed.
He was shot in the leg during battle and was hospitalized for 6 months. During that time, his best friend was killed in battle.
â??I didnâ??t want to make new friends because I didnâ??t want to go through having a friend die again,â?? says Rich.
At one point in battle, his company lost 80 men in about 15 minutes. The Germans caught them in an open field.
â??The guys were going down like flys. The next morning I had to go out and grab rifles and see if there were any dead that needed identification and if I knew them,â?? says Rich.
With the sounds of gunfire and the sight of smoke constantly a factor, Rich would shoot his bazooka without knowing if he hit anyone.
However, Rich will never forget the first person he knowingly shot and killed.
â??It stayed with me for years. Thereâ??s a lot of times when thereâ??s dead Germans out in front of you, but you didnâ??t know who killed who,â?? says Rich.
Rich and the other soldiers would try to make light of situations to keep their spirits up. He described a story of a German dropping his pants to relieve himself without knowing there were American soldiers close by.
â??So we start shooting up there. We chased him clear back up over the hill and he'd run and fall down and we laughed until we cried. We were freezing to death and had nothing to eat, but it was funny,â?? says Rich
Don Rich and Kevin Brooks teamed up to write the book Glider Infantryman which describes Richâ??s war experiences in depth. For more information about the book, click here.
Along with the other World War II veterans, Don Rich is a hero.