Our little church in Brainerd had 28 men in military service during World War II. We gave thanks to God when all of them came back safely.
To my knowledge the only church member that sustained a significant wound was Wally Anderson. Wally worked as a salesman at a Brainerd hardware store. He had an easy, quiet manner; not what you’d think of when you visualized a hard-boiled butt-kicking combat infantryman.
It was not Wally’s wound that made him a hero. To my mind, the wound was a reward for his day-to-day heroism as a soldier.
As a combat infantryman in France, Wally drove a halftrack for a while. He told how they were in a column that had stalled. Then, enemy artillery shells started coming in. Wally dived for the ditch just in time to roll over and watch a shell make a direct hit on his halftrack, destroying it.
Wally served for three months as point man in a reconnaissance platoon. Reconnaissance platoons go into forward areas in and beyond the front lines every day to gather information on enemy positions and strengths. It’s one of the most dangerous jobs in the Army.
Furthermore, Wally served for that three months as point man for the platoon. That is what makes Wally a hero. On the average, a recon platoon point man is killed every TWO WEEKS. Wally served in that position for six lifetimes. Surely he did not complain, because it would have not been like Wally to do so.
While on point he was driving a jeep with the platoon lieutenant beside him. In a small town he drove around a corner and came face-to-face with a German machine gun nest. He quickly backed around the corner and watched bullets from the machine gun whizz down the street in front of them.
One day, in a supposedly safe area, Wally’s platoon stopped to have something to eat. As Wally sat on the ground, opening a can of Spam, he felt a sting in his heel. Looking down, he saw blood, and knew that he had been wounded. Then Wally looked at the can of Spam in his hand and saw two bullet holes through it.
Wally’s wound was what soldiers call a ‘million dollar wound’. It wasn’t severe, but since it was in his heel it was restricting enough that he could not return to combat.
I believe that if anybody deserved a ‘million dollar wound’ it was Wally, after serving six lifetimes on recon point.
Today, Wally is buried in Fort Snelling National Cemetery in St. Paul.