But is denied Purple Heart despite injuries, bravery
Lester Trauth Sr. spent his 19th birthday overseas in England, fighting to save the world.
A Des Allemands native who now resides in Texas, Trauth is one of the few and proud surviving among veterans of the D-Day invasion, a distinction he says he’s taken more pride in as time has gone on.
“I’m very proud to have served … very proud,” he said before quipping, “At the time, I was shot at a little too much (to appreciate what he had done).”
He was drafted —“Uncle Sam said ‘I want you!’ Trauth said — and enlisted in August of 1943. After completing his boot camp and additional training, he became a part of the 79th Infantry that made its way to Europe. He and his fellow veterans made their way from France to Germany during their time there. They landed on Utah Beach on June 6, 1944 for an effort that largely shaped the world as we know it today.
According to a biography written for SETXSeniors.com (Southeast Texas Seniors), Trauth narrowly avoided disaster on multiple occasions. He was just outside the blast of a grenade that knocked over an American mortar nearby, barely avoiding exposure to the explosion that would have killed him.
On another occasion, a German mortar shell exploded and shrapnel tore through his backpack and several items within. Just enough items, in fact — a few less and the shrapnel would have shattered his spine.
But he didn’t escape unscathed. Trauth was hospitalized for a time when an artillery shell hit him and shattered three ribs.
Though he was injured, Trauth has to this day never received a Purple Heart for his sacrifice, as the parameters for receiving the honor dictate one must shed blood; the injury broke his ribs without breaking his skin.
“We’ve never given up on that,” said Mary Williams, Military Veteran Peer Network coordinator and herself a military veteran of 21 years. “They’ve told us he didn’t bleed during combat, showed no blood, which is crazy.”
Paperwork has been submitted on Trauth’s behalf for further consideration, as well as for his Legion of Honor recognition from the French Consulate Office in Houston.
Williams, who is close with Trauth, affectionately refers to him as “dad,” though the two are not blood related.
She very much wants to see Trauth, now 93, receive his purple heart.
“It would be a great, great honor. I’d probably cry, because he’s so deserving and he’s also long overdue,” Williams said. “It shouldn’t be like this for World War II veterans. This is the greatest generation who ever lived. If not for him, none of us would likely have the freedom we have right now.”
When Trauth was returning home from Germany, he said it felt like an eternity. The 18 day voyage by ship eventually touched down upon the shore. He could finally move on.
“It felt great to be home,” he said. “I was glad to get off that ship.”
He served three years and upon his return in 1946, he married the woman who would be his wife of 67 years and who he calls “the love of my life” before her passing in 2013.
He had ascended to the rank of corporal by war’s end and was awarded four battle stars and the combat infantry badge.