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May 25, 2012     Post-Gazette
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Page 8 POST-GAZETTE, MAY 25, 2012 Fulfilling A Mother's Wish Remembering Our Veterans on Memorial Day by Ray Barren Ray Barron at Richard F. France, October 1945. World War II ended in Europe on Thursday, May 8, 1945 and we looked forward to returning to our homes. For many parents whose sons were killed in action, they had nothing to look for- ward to ... no one to wel- come home. Some parents wrote to their son's buddies asking them to visit their son's grave. I was one of the GI's who received such a re- quest. "Before you come home I wish you would visit my son's grave and say a prayer for me." My journey-to her son's grave, Richard Aylward, be- gan in October of 1945, a month before I was due to head back home. I had been in Europe for close to 19 months and had participated in four battles beginning with Normandy. I was in Munich, Germany when I received her letter that in- cluded the name of the cem- etery located in Soisson, France. I immediately made plans to head for Soisson with a camera I had bor- rowed from one of my bud- dies. To reach my destina- tion, I had to take a train to Paris to seek the help of the American Red Cross to help me get to Soisson. Arriving in Paris and tired from the long train ride, I immediately went to the Red Cross headquarters for as- sistance on how to get to Soisson. I was informed they did not provide transpor- tation but I could take a bus to Soisson. Tired and weary, I went to a small bus ter- minal and not knowing French, I relied on a piece of paper with the name of the town and cemetery. I showed the piece of paper to a woman, who pointed out Aylward's grave in Soisson, where the bus would leave from. In short, it was a di- lapidated bus occupied by ci- vilians. There I was, the only GI on the bus, seated next to a woman holding a baby in her arms. It was a slow, bumpy ride to Soisson and when we ar- rived close to Soisson, one of the bus tires blew out and we landed in a ditch on the side of the road. We piled off the bus and I volunteered to carry the woman's baby. Slowly, we walked to Soisson, about a mile or so away. Entering the town, I noticed some French sol- diers and I showed them the slip of paper. I followed them to a small house where two young French officers were seated at a table. One of the French officers got up from the table and motioned me to follow him outside to a Jeep. Off we went! It was close to noon and the skies were clouding up. It was a short drive to the American cemetery and what I immediately noticed was an American flag in the center of the rows of white crosses and Stars of David. I looked around the cemetery, thinking I would find a GI there, a caretaker. I discovered I was the only GI there! Along with the French officer, I began to walk between the white wooden crosses, searching for my buddy's grave. At last, I found a dog-tag nailed on the white cross and his name, Richard F. Aylward. I stood in front of his grave and said, "BuddY, I'm here. Your mother sends her love." Standing behind me was the French officer, who was hold- ing my camera. I asked him to take pictures of the grave Greater Boston's Affordable Private Cemetery Traditional Burial Plot (for 2) 1 Starting at S1500 T, MICHAEL CEMETERY 500 Canterbury St. 617.524.1036 Boston, MA 02131 www.stmichaelcemetery.com Serving the Italian community for over 100 years/ and a few with me by the side of the grave. I was the only living American in the cemetery on that damp, driz- zly late morning and I was getting mad as hell! Sud- denly, I began to throw a fit -- a fit of anger! I began shouting, "I made it! You stupid bastardsI I made itT" I cried, out of control. Yes, I was cursing them all for dying. As I rambled on, the French officer wrapped his arms around me and be- gan to move me away from the grave. Perhaps he sensed I was tempted to knock down all of the white crosses. As we walked away, I paused, turned around and began to shout, "See you later guysl" My eyes filled with tears, I cried unasbamedly. The young French officer brought me back to the small house in the village, poured me a glass of cognac and urged me to drink it. Talking with another of- ricer, it was decided I should be driven back to Paris. Re- turning to Paris, I checked in at a hotel reserved for GI's and after taking a hot bath, I crawled into bed and imme- diately fell asleep. Back in Munich, I had the roll of film developed and mailed the photos to Aylward's mother. Weeks passed and then a letter ar- rived from her thank- ing me for visiting her be- loved son's grave and urging me to visit her and her fam- ily when I returned home. Returning home, I went to visit the. Aylwards and tears began to flow. I was con- tinuously hugged and kissed by the family. I did recount how I found my way to Soisson and how I misplaceat the name and address of the French officer who drove me to the cemetery. Through the years, I have been tempted to send some copies of the photo he took of me by the grave to French newspapers, hoping he would see the photo and con- tact me. Richard F. Aylward, who was 21 years old, was killed in action on December 2, 1944. Yes, he was my buddy. As I sit" here writing, I see myself walking slowly be- tween the rows of white crosses and begin to won- der how I managed to sur- vive the war. Well, rest in peace dear brothers. You are not forgotten. Staff Sergeant Richard F. Aylward lies in peace among 5,255 of our mili- tary dead at the Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial, situated on a pla- teau in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains in Vosges, France. On the morning of May 12, 1958, the permanent American Cemetery was established. Plot B, Row 5. Grave 13 is where Richard F. Aylward now lies in peace. Hail and farewell, dear brother. Richard F. Aylward was a native of Orient Heights, East Boston. SANTA MARIA Di ANZANO Procession Only - Hanover- Prince Sts. ST. ANTHONY'S of PADULA Procession Only- Hanover- Prince Sts. PADRE PIe PROCESSION Procession Only- North Square June 3 2 pm June 10 2pro June 24 MADONNA DEL GRAZlE Procession Only- North Square ST. ROCCO Procession Only - Hanover St. ST. JOSEPH Hanover & Battery Sts. Sunday Procession July 8 2 pm July 15 I pm July 27, 28, 29 I pm ST. AGRIPPINA Hanover St. & Battery St. Sunday Procession Info: Call 617-367-2756 MADONNA DELLA CAVA Hanover & Battery Sts. Sunday Procession 1 pm MADONNA del SOCCORSO August 16, 17, 18, 19 North, Fleet & Lewis Sts. (Fisherman's) Sunday Procession ST. ANTHONY Endicott & Thacher Sts. Sunday Procession ST. LUCY Monday Procession - Endicott St. August 3 4, 5 I pm August 10, 11, 12 1 pm August 24, 25, 26 12 pm August 27 5 pm ST. 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