By Allen Schmidt
State Senate 36th District
VICTORIA — I had the privilege of attending a Purple Heart presentation recently for one of our local World War II veterans, William “Edward” Froelich.
Sen. Jerry Moran’s staff recovered the lost records of the Purple Heart and other decorations our local hero had earned more than 65 years ago. With his wife, Delores and many family members and friends filling the chapel of St. John’s Rest Home in Victoria, Sen. Moran professionally presented the decorations.
The story behind the injuries resulting in the Purple Heart is unique to Froelich’s situation, but it is common in nature to many of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guard and others in national security service to our country, who also risk their lives at any given time.
It was April 28, 1945, when Froelich’s call came. He was on the USS Pinkney in Okinawa when a suicide Kamikaze pilot came screaming toward the ship at sea level.
According to Froelich, the pilot, realizing he was approaching the wrong ship, (the Pinkney was parked in a carrier’s space) suddenly pulled up, to miss this ship and instead find his primary target ship.
He didn’t make it. He struck the braces that lower the life boats and crashed onto the deck. Froelich said the pilot was thrown out of the plane and onto the deck and was dressed in a full ceremonial white robe showing his intention.
The explosions that then occurred penetrated into the sick hold where patients were located. An evacuation occurred with many daring rescues taking place, but eventually the fire forced Froelich and others to jump overboard. More than 30 died. His serious injuries caused evacuation and a two-month hospital stay in California.
I repeat this story out of great respect for Mr. Froelich, but also for the many other veterans in our communities who have walked, flown, sailed and otherwise served our nation.
My 30-year-career in the Army exposed me to some of the best that America has to offer.
As a second lieutenant all the way to senior colonel, I witnessed those in uniform stepping up time and time again to answer the call to duty with little reservation about the potential cost to them or their families. The encounters and stories still echo in my mind of young soldiers prepping for deployment, leaning into danger in support of something greater than themselves.
What a testimony of service and of commitment to values worth sacrificing for!
Young Seaman Froelich had no idea he would encounter the situation he did in WWII. He took an oath and made the decision he would serve his country putting his own safety on the line when, and if, that danger came. It did -- and he responded. Heroes tend to be made that way. They offer themselves for others first and then respond with selfless service when the call comes.
My military experience leaves me optimistic about our future because we have a new generation of “great ones” who have been tested with service and sacrifice beyond the normal call of duty. I have seen them, I have trained with them, and I have served with them.
They will continue to serve this great nation both in and out of uniform. Don’t lose heart — stand tall. They provide hope for our nation in troubled times.
Thank a veteran today.
Allen Schmidt, Hays, is an Army veteran and state senator for the 36th District.