From D-Day to Vietnam, Dothan veteran was there

World War II veteran Roy Wise stands for a photograph wearing his old U.S. Army uniform in his front yard Nov. 10, 2008. Wise also served in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Roy Wise stepped on to the beach at Normandy on June 6, 1944, with a fellow soldier by his side. He never thought he would forget the other soldier’s name, but he’s quickly approaching 88, and his memory isn’t what it used to be.

He doesn’t remember a lot of dates, but Friday, April 13, 1945, sticks out to him because that was the day he and his captain were taken prisoner by the German Army. Thirty hours later, his captors ran into a contingent of American troops and gave up immediately.

His hearing hasn’t been right since the day he was in the middle of an apple orchard in France, during the allied assault, when a 500-pound bomb landed about 100 feet from his foxhole. It displaced so much sand it completely buried another soldier in a nearby foxhole.

“He had just enough oxygen in pockets in that foxhole,” Wise said. “We couldn’t see him at all, but we knew about where he was supposed to be and they just started digging and got him out. My ears rang for three weeks after that.”

Maybe the fleeting memory is a blessing, because most of the things he does remember aren’t pleasant. And maybe the hearing loss was a good thing, because who wants to hear everything that happens in a war?

Wise, a Dothan resident, served as a messenger for the 7th Corps Artillery Headquarters during the D-Day assault. He advanced with the allied troops and toured a Nazi concentration camp after its liberation.

He returned home and spent 18 months away from the military, but joined up again at Fort Benning in early 1947 as a mechanic/maintenance officer. Then it was off to Frankfurt, Germany, with the 704th maintenance battalion. He remained in the Army and was stationed in Korea in 1965-66. Although he wasn’t involved in combat operations during the Korean Conflict, he still earned stripes for being stationed there during the operation. Not long after that, it was off to Vietnam.

He retired in 1971 as a W3 at the age of 52 and a veteran of three wars.

“They wanted me to stay in but I told them three wars was enough,” Wise said.

Wise, born in the Coffee County community of Ino, said he isn’t sure if he will make it to the Veterans Day ceremony today in Dothan. Maybe, he said, he could stay for the whole thing if he brings a chair. But it’s hard.

He wore his Army uniform Sunday morning at Ridgecrest Baptist Church. The congregation gave him a standing ovation.

“That’s the highlight of my week,” he said. “Preaching, singing and Sunday school.”

He still flies the American flag in his front yard and thinks people don’t appreciate veterans as much as they used to.

“That’s the way it looks to me,” he said. “But it makes me feel good to see the flag flying, and the 21-gun salutes on Veterans Day. It builds you up.”

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Lover of sweet tea, fried okra and the Boston Red Sox.

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