The following is reprinted from "The Lyon Tale" published in 2003, author Ellayne Conyers.
"America was recently at war again - at the very least, conflict, in the Middle East. As our young men and women bravely give of their lives (and in some cases life itself) our minds and hearts return to one of the previous wars - that of World War II. The following is the life experience of Robert Bouressa as a prisoner of war.
Bouressa grew up and attended school in Green Valley. He also lived at 414 Mason Ave. in Marshall before moving to California in 1942. His parents were George and Delia Bouressa. Robert's three brothers also were in the military, two of them serving overseas. After his stint in the Army he returned to Marshall for the winter of 1945. He married LaVonne Nelson of Russell. The Bouressas now live in Citrus Heights, Calif. His wife, LaVonne Nelson Bouressa, wrote this account in 1994. This heart-rending story is published with the permission of the Bouressas."
"It will soon be 59 years since Robert Bouressa was captured by the Germans in a small town of Birgel, Germany. He was just 21 years old and this date of Dec. 14, 1944, will stay in his memory forever.
Robert was a soldier in the U.S. Army, attached to the 329th Infantry, 83rd Division. He had been in combat for six months. His company had just made a brilliant attack against the town of Gurzenich and Birgel, Germany. Prior to entering the town of Birgel, his company was engaged in a fierce battle in the Hurtgen Forest. The heavy concentrations of artillery and mortar fire, causing tree bursts, stripped the trees of their limbs and bark. Although the terrain to the front of his company was still partly wooded all the way to Gurzenich, the men moved rapidly and overcame all resistance and entered the town of Birgel. This is the only part of the story of this bloody battle. He remembers well those, cold, bitter, bloody days. He had never seen so many dead soldiers. He had never seen such utter devastation. Actually, war, he thought as a child, was a thing in history books. He saw the thing that had been done to mankind. No, Robert will never forget it!
Actually, he was an experienced and trained soldier. He was also young and naive and had not really learned to hate anyone. He was like the other soldiers - breaking their backs, losing their lives, losing their limbs and losing a thing a young fellow values most - his body. He and his buddies ate C rations and had to be alert 24 hours a day. This was not a 9 to 5 job. Long hours wore on. Night came. They were dirty and cold.
Robert wrote: 'One evening my company was just getting ready to kick off on an attack on a small town in France when a German soldier about 35 years old surrendered to about six or seven of us. Now we were already under strength and could not spare a man to escort the prisoner back behind our lines, so while the sergeant was deciding what to do, one of our men (who was beginning to crack from battle fatigue) said, 'I'll take care of it,' and right before our very eyes put his rifle to the German's chest and pulled the trigger. The prisoner spun around and fell to the ground face up, still alive, and spoke in broken English. He said, 'I do not understand' Then one of our men said, 'Now what are you going to do,' and he just held the rifle from his hip and shot him again. Of course, this killed him. There are many atrocities in wartime. I can still remember the scared look on the prisoner's face when he was shot the first time. I couldn't help but think that this man was probably married with kids back in Germany. For someone to kill him in this way was just plain murder. This has haunted me all my life."
(Continued next week)