CONWAY (WBTW) – These days, there isn't much 93-year-old Dwight Gentry, Sr. wants to, or maybe is able to, talk about.
“All he thinks about in this stage of life is probably: what's his next meal and World War II,” said Dwight Gentry, Jr. His father now lives at Kingston Nursing Center, where he may talk about his time fighting Germans for five months across Europe in 1944. But he doesn't talk about it much, and, his son, he never has.
“He said, 'What I've seen is so unbelievable and shocking, if I told stories, people would think I'm bragging or lying,'” said the younger Gentry. He said his mother once prodded enough to get the former University of Maryland professor to talk that he only really talked about one battle, when he lead his company across an empty field toward a heavily-fortified village held by German forces. Gentry told his family the Allied forces thought the German artillery was gone, but then came heavy fire from anti-aircraft weapons pointed at the advancing soldiers.
“Dad said one of his sergeants was three feet away to his right, and an anti-aircraft shell just vaporized him,” said Gentry. “It was terrible.”
Gentry's service earned him one Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, and four Purple Hearts. He finally left the battlefield after a sniper wounded him in the leg.
Tuesday, though, was a chance for the Gentry family and staff at Kingston to celebrate Dwight, Sr.'s service. He is one of the latest recipients of France's Legion of Honor medal. Napoleon Bonaparte established the honor in 1802, and since then scores of military leaders, political figures, humanitarians, and even artists and musicians have received it. A sampling of honorees from the U.S. and U.K. include Sirs Paul McCartney and Laurence Olivier, J.K. Rowling, actor Bruce Willis, Walt Disney, and Charles Lindbergh.
“We'll keep this in our family,” said Gentry, Jr. “I'm hoping for generations to come, when they see Dad won the Legion of Honor, and understand what that means, they'll look back on the family tree and say, 'Holy smokes! There was a hero!'”
For information about the award and who could be eligible, click here.