Some 16 million men and women served in the U.S. military
during World War II, but only 558,000 are still living, nearly
all of them in their 90s. According to government statistics
362 die every day of the year. This is the story of only one.
At a graveside service the ashes of Staff Sgt. Roger Stryker,
along with those of his wife Barbara, were interred at the North
Clinton Cemetery on a rainy Saturday morning last week. He was
a Waterman native, born in 1921, graduated from Waterman High
and enlisted in the Army in 1942, just five months after his
marriage to Barbara LaSuer. They had dated since their freshman
year and the Wolverine yearbook had the caption under their photo
Inseparable. They were married for 74 years and died
exactly three months apart.
Roger was my first cousin and I would like to share his
involvement in World War II in the European Theatre.
At the gravesite ceremony, preparing the U.S. flag
for presentation to Roger Strykers three daughters, are
from left, National Guard Spec. Eduardo Serna, Loren Monsess
and Jim Cox from American Legion Post 654, and Spec. Angel Hernandez-Rendon.
The Legion Post Honor Guard in the background stands ready to
fire a 21-gun salute and play Taps.
photo for ShawMedia)
Roger was trained as a paratrooper and joined the 504th
(Parachute) Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division,
first fighting in North Africa, then in Sicily, Italy, Holland,
Belgium, France and finally Germany. He was wounded in combat
three times and was treated in British hospitals.
Once, while he was recuperating in a field hospital tent
in England, the Germans flew a night bombing raid, hitting the
tent and killing the nurse who was caring for Roger. His wife
Barbara went through the agony of getting three telegrams from
the War Department: I regret to inform you that your husband
has been injured
and one that said: I regret to inform
you that your husband is missing in action.
Each one of those times had a story he related to his grandson
Ty Erickson. There was a film and book about one of his engagementsThe
Battle of the Bulge. Roger came home with many medals, more than
one Purple Heart and Bronze Stars. Ty has most of his memorabilia
since he spent time with his grandfather over the years, asking
about the war. Roger never opened up to his family or close friends
about the awful things he witnessed, but the grandson was able
to finally get him to share some of what happened over there.
Ty told me Roger was like a second father to him and his hero
A personal note: When Roger and his brother-in-law Rusty
Kleckner came back from the war, I was given a souvenir, as was
Rogers younger half-brother Jim Watson. Mine was a sheathed
bayonet and Jim got a German Luger pistol. That bayonet is now
in the possession of Ty as I felt a direct descendant should
Now you know the story of one soldier who came back, raised
four daughters with his wife BarbaraCindy, Jani, Jackie
and Stephanie, who provided him with nine grandchildren and 15
great-grandchildren. Farming for much of his life south of Waterman,
he later went into high tech equipment sales, before retiring
to San Benito, Texas. That is where they both died, but wanted
their ashes returned to Waterman where other members of their
extended family are also interred. Now there will be one more
American flag on a grave at that cemetery, along with some 100
others from all the wars.