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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I wrote a column for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle for 8 years starting in December 2007 and running until November 2015. Then I returned to column writing in August 2016, all of them archived here.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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Greatest Generation loses another soldier

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist.............................October 20, 2017

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 Stryker’s 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.
(Schrader 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 engagements—The 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 for life.

A personal note: When Roger and his brother-in-law Rusty Kleckner came back from the war, I was given a souvenir, as was Roger’s 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 have it.

Now you know the story of one soldier who came back, raised four daughters with his wife Barbara—Cindy, 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.

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The columnist can be reached via email at :

barry815sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115