My dad, N.J. Eckert, was a member of the greatest generation who fought for our freedom. He was on one of the first troop ships and fought in several island battles in the South Pacific. I would not see him again until years later when World War II was over. He enlisted in WWI to follow his older brother J.P. Eckert, who already was in Europe. He rose to sergeant and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1920. My dad in the 1930s played competitive horse polo with future Gen. George S. Patton. Patton came from a wealthy family; he purchased his polo ponies, maintained and stabled them, and never accepted a military paycheck. Of his 38 years in the Army my dad spent over 20 on horseback. Prior to leaving to the South Pacific, he went to the recruiting areas to get men to fill out his unit; they were mostly big men from Tennessee who could plow a field with a mule, and mountain men from West Virginia who could shoot a squirrel out of a tree. He knew the mud jungle trails would be tough to pull artillery cannons; he had previously served in the South Pacific. He always spoke highly of his men; one became the heavyweight boxing champ on the troop ship. He later said that was his 2nd best heavyweight; he kept out his best man just in case. My dad rose to be acting division artillery commander of the 25th Infantry Division in World War II. One of his battalion commanders in WWII would rise to a three-star general and was the Big Red One's first combat commander in Vietnam - Gen. Jonathan O. Seaman would attend my dad’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. He expressed his condolences to my mother and spoke of his leadership in WWII. The Tropic Lightning 25th Division participated in the seizure of the islands of New Georgia and three other islands in the Pacific. In the 1950s the Pentagon sent my highly decorated dad, an experienced combat veteran, to Europe to confront the Russians in the cold war along the HOF corridor into Nurnberg, Germany where thousands of Russian tanks were assembled across the border and the U.S. had low-yield M65 nuclear artillery. What I remember most about him was every night he got on his knees to pray “For God and Country” as an American Legion member of Post 42 in Ocean Springs, Miss.
RAE, Post 42 member, Ocean Springs, Miss. Photo sent to three sons in WWII.