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Remember the vets

Posted by Richard on November 11, 2019

On this Veterans Day, please make a contribution to an organization (or two, or three) that supports veterans or active-duty military personnel. A couple of my favorites are the VFW and the Wounded Warrior Project.


To those who have served, and to those who serve today:

Thank you.

It Is The Soldier

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Charles Michael Province, U.S. Army

Copyright Charles M. Province, 1970, 2005

The Signaleer has a nice history of Remembrance Day, which begat Armistice Day, which begat Veterans Day, and he includes the classic World War I poem, In Flanders Fields. Well worth a visit.

On this Veterans Day, as always, I remember my late father, Col. Samuel R. Combs. The obituary by Robert Denerstein published in the Rocky Mountain News on August 28, 2006 (copyright Rocky Mountain News 2006) follows. I especially appreciated Denerstein’s line at the end of the second paragraph, highlighted.

Samuel Raymond Combs stopped celebrating his birthday in 2001. It wasn’t that Combs, 85 at the time, fretted about his advancing age. No, scrapping birthday plans had more to do with the fact that the 27-year military man was born Sept. 11, 1916. For the deeply patriotic Col. Combs, celebrating on Sept. 11 became impossible after the events of 9/1 1/01.

Col. Combs, who died Aug. 16 at age 89 in Knoxville, Tenn., as the result of complications from a fall, neatly fits the profile of what has become known as “the Greatest Generation.” He answered his country’s call even before the phone rang, volunteering for the Army after Pearl Harbor.

Born in Joplin, Mo., and raised in Colorado after his father relocated to Glenwood Springs, Col. Combs attended Glenwood Springs High School and graduated from Colorado State University.

He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Signal Corps. A few days after DDay, he landed at Omaha Beach, serving with the Seventh Army, 26th Infantry Division. Col. Combs later was part of the postwar administration in Berlin and Heidelberg, Germany, and in Vienna, Austria.

Col. Combs also fought in the Korean War, but like many of his generation, he wasn’t big on war stories.

“He didn’t talk much about it,” said his son, Richard Combs, of Denver. “He talked a little more about going to CSU and playing football.”

Despite his father’s reticence, Combs noted his father’s military accomplishments included the Legion of Merit, Military Order of Scabbard and Blade, Defense Department Commendation Medals and four Battle Stars.

“My dad was a complex person,” said Combs. “The relationship he had with us kids was pretty rocky for a long time. But I’m glad of the fact that we became friends and were able to express our love for each other.”

Combs knows his father’s strengths were of a kind that turned men like him into the country’s backbone.
“He didn’t talk about how he reacted when Pearl Harbor occurred,” Richard said.

“But I know he expressed a number of times that he really loved the Army: the discipline, the structure and the camaraderie. By the end of World War II, he probably decided to make it his career.

“He had some great strengths, and I guess that’s what we talk about when we talk about the ‘Greatest Generation.’ They came out of the Depression and into the Nazi threat. We owe those guys a lot. They really sucked it up when they had to suck it up.”

Col. Combs’ daughter Linda Palmer of Alcoa, Tenn., concurred. “He was very brave,” Palmer said. “He was so devoted to his country.”

If old soldiers are supposed to fade away, Col. Combs didn’t quite follow the plan.
“A week before he died, he was out driving his car,” Palmer said. “He was determined to live life his way to the very end.”

Col. Combs married several times and settled in Knoxville in 1968 after his retirement from the military. His former wife Margo, the mother of his children, died in 1973. Another former wife, Mary, died in 2004.

“He had the virtues of the others of his generation,” Richard Combs said. “He had a great capacity to love others and especially to love his country. He had a great sense of honor and duty, and he took pride in his military career.”

Services for Col. Combs were held Aug. 19 in Knoxville; burial followed on Aug. 20.
Col. Combs is survived by his wife, Dorothy, of Knoxville; a son, Richard Combs, of Denver; daughters Margo Walsh, of Punta Gorda, Fla., and Linda Palmer, of Alcoa, Tenn.; three grandchildren; and three greatgrandchildren.


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