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Smeltser Takes Honor Flight To D.C.
By Kevin Fox
At the corner of Clay & Mulberry Streets in Alexandria stands a two story house, which has no doubt seen a great deal of devastation, when you consider the history of the town and it’s proximity to the mighty Mississippi.
But it’s the home’s resident who has been a witness to far more, in fact a great deal more. Floyd Smeltser was drafted into the Army just nine months after being married and he would serve for three years. He served in the First Infantry Division, Co. L 16th regiment. He landed on Omaha Beach three days after the D-Day Invasion as a replacement, as the company had killed or wounded 120 of its 200 men.
From there Smeltser picks up the story, “From that time until about two weeks before the Battle of the Bulge I was in combat with nothing but Germans in front of us. I hear and we all hear that war is Hell. Make no mistake about it, that is exactly what it was like, and you never get over it. Within three miles of the beach we began receiving heavy fire. We stayed there for some time waiting for our supplies to catch up with us. My first night in France near Saint Lo, I was on patrol. I cannot tell you how scared I was, but I do know this, never did I think that I would ever make it home. I always knew that either that night or the next day would be my last. It was for that reason that no one made very close friends, because they simply were not around that long and you didn’t want to get that close to somebody only to lose them. But there are some men that you never forget and always think of. There was a sergeant named Ginearo, in the Hürtgen Forest, who was coming around to all our foxholes. I was covered up with my rain coat that was ripped to shreds and he would tell each of us as he went by our foxholes “Boys, when they stop shelling us they will be coming at us! So when that shelling stops, get your head up and get ready, cause they will be coming!” He was walking around under fire while we were being shelled to tell us that! That night we got a counter attack.
Floyd continued, “But there are a great many things that I wish I could forget…things like steam rising off bodies. And a young boy who just joined our outfit that was simply riddled with either bullets or shell fragments. There is not a day goes by that I don’t see or hear something that I do not have a memory that suddenly pops into my head. And it changes you . I have fallen out of my bed a thousand or more times and now I have a rail around my bed, because there are few nights that pass that I am not fightng Germans, even though It’s been many many years and so many many miles from the fighting to quiet Alexandria. There is simply no way to shake what I have seen! The only way that I am here today is that the Lord was watching out for me! And that reminds me of something else. Whenever I got a chance to go to a church service in combat, I went. I didn’t care if it was Catholic or Protestant I went! I’ve been at a service serveral times when there was shelling in the background.”
Due to a bleeding ulcer, Floyd was taken off the front line two weeks prior to the Battle of the Bulge and would go back to Paris to a hospital and then serve as a fireman in the 1117 Engineers Firefighters at a large port at Cherbourg. At Cherbourg, Floyd was involved in battling fires on ships coming to port or ammo dumps.
There is no way to repay our veterans like Floyd for putting themselves in harms way for the freedoms that we enjoy today. But one way that is
being attempted is to get veterans to participate in the Honor Flight program. Smeltser recently took an honor flight with fifty some other veterans from a group down state in Missouri. He chose to make this trip because it was a longer trip, and he felt it would be less stressful for him than the trip that is a one-day trip. He arrived in Baltimore on Friday October 7 in the afternoon and left Baltimore on Sunday evening. In talking about the trip, Floyd stated that it was just unbelievable. He continued, “It began at the St. Louis airport with people stopping what they were doing and shaking our hands and clapping and cheering and we received the same reception in Baltimore and every where else we went. Our first stop was at Arlington National Cemetery at the Eternal Flame at the grave of JF Kennedy. Of course that is just an incredible place that moves you. The next day we went to the WWII Memorial, which is just out of this world. Those great big pillars with each state’s name on them are just something else. There are many inscriptions around the memorial of President FD Roosevelt. That memorial is just so huge and so impressive that you cannot see it without having it affecting you. I also enjoyed and was impressed by the Korean War and Viet Nam War Memorials. While we were there we got to meet and shake hand with Colin Powell and Bob Dole, and they could not have been nicer to us. But the trip was simply unreal and they could not have been better to us and everything we did was first class. I cannot thank everyone enough for what the country has done in honoring we veterans. I was so touched by the outpouring from everyone I met and when I got back home!
There is no way to explain a veteran. Here is a man who cannot sleep because of what he has gone through and continues to go through thanking us for recognizing his service. What men and women this country produces. Freedom is not free, and thank God for such men and women.