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Nephew to accept Bronze Star for WW II 82nd Airborne paratrooper
Friday Nov 1, 2013
Pvt. Max Myers' family will receive the medal for valor for the soldier killed in 1944.
By Drew Brooks, Fayetteville Observer
It's a ceremony nearly 70 years in the making.
A paratrooper who served with the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II will be posthumously recognized for valor during a ceremony today on Fort Bragg.
The family of Pvt. Max Myers of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment will receive the Bronze Star at the 82nd Airborne Division Museum at 11:30 a.m., according to officials. Ron Myers of Fayetteville, a nephew, will accept the medal on behalf of the family.
Max Myers, the youngest of 10 children raised in rural Indiana, enlisted in the Army in 1942 - surprising his much older siblings, Ron Myers said.
The family was devastated when he died Oct. 7, 1944, near Nijmegen, Netherlands, Ron Myers said.
Five years later, Max Myers' body was shipped home.
At the time, the family received a flag, a Purple Heart, some paperwork and little else, he said.
"That's all anybody really asked for," Ron Myers said. "I think the family just wanted it behind them."
Years later, the next generation of the Myers family had conflicting accounts of how their uncle died.
Some thought he was killed in the Battle of the Bulge. Others thought he died in Normandy, France.
Ron Myers, who previously worked for the military and the U.S. Postal Service, said he began looking into his uncle's service when he retired.
He found that Max Myers, a combat medic, was shot and killed a few weeks after the start of Operation Market Garden, a massive airborne operation to seize and hold bridges near the German border.
After his death, the Myers family received the Purple Heart and the Combat Medical Badge.
The latter award, and its corresponding paperwork, Ron Myers said, proved that his uncle also was deserving of a Bronze Star. For some reason, that award was never processed, he said.
Ron Myers said he was stonewalled in his early attempts to get the recognition his uncle deserved, thanks in part to his uncle's records being destroyed in a fire at a national archive in St. Louis in the 1970s.
But he found a friendly ear at Fort Bragg, where he said the 82nd Airborne Division told him they would "take care of our own."
Today at the museum, 82nd Airborne Division commander Maj. Gen. John W. Nicholson will present the award.
Col. Tim Watson, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, also will be on hand.
The 4th Brigade Combat Team derives its lineage from the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and Watson said today's ceremony will be a significant event in the regiment's history.
"Sixty-nine years ago, the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment and other units of the 82nd Airborne Division were still engaged in Operation Market Garden. Given the complexity and hazards of the airborne operation and follow-on offensive and defensive actions, many acts of heroism went unrecorded," Watson said. "Today, we are honored to welcome the family of Pvt. Myers to recognize his actions that represents the courage and audacity of his fellow paratroopers."
'To us, he was a hero'
The ceremony will be the culmination of months of research and will help bring closure to the Myers family, Ron Myers said.
"I never met him, but I knew of him from stories," Ron Myers said. "To us, he was a hero. I mean, he was an airborne trooper in World War II, what more can you say?"
At Ron Myers' Fayetteville home, photographs of his uncle are spread across his dining room table.
One shows the Myers family standing at attention on the homestead, with Max Myers, by far the smallest, standing in the center, dwarfed by his siblings.
Another shows an even larger family, augmented by spouses and children. This time, Max Myers is standing in the back row, wearing his Army uniform.
The latter photograph was take just before Max Myers went to war, Ron Myers said. Other images from that day show Max Myers with his arms around his sisters or sitting with friends, also in uniform.
The photographs are kept in an otherwise nondescript manilla folder, part of Ron Myers' research.
The folder also contains letters of condolence from Army leaders and politicians.
There's a letter from the postmaster general of Gary, Ind. Another from then-U.S. Sen. Raymond Willis. One more from President Franklin Roosevelt.
In a letter from then-Maj. Gen. James M. Gavin, the famed leader of the 82nd Airborne wrote that Max Myers was loyal and dependable.
"His cheerful and willing attitude was a great morale builder," Gavin wrote. ". Death of such a man leaves with each member of the Division a lasting sense of loss, from which there comes to you a deep sense of personal sympathy."
Ron Myers said it was his duty to follow up on the exploits of his uncle. To make sure he received every honor due to him.
"He's entitled to this, and there's no question about it," he said. "It's about time this came to an end."
Staff writer Drew Brooks can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3567.