Guest Column | By Sid Stein
In 1942, when I was only 5 years old, my two older brothers, Morris and Hyman Stein, went off to war, never to return, as they were killed in action. They were both in the infantry.
Morris, who was born in 1919, was a first lieutenant and was leading his fellow soldiers through the jungles in the Philippines when he was fatally shot by a Japanese sniper in May 1945.
Letters from his friends said he was a natural-born leader. He had military training in high school at Columbia Military Academy in Columbia, Tenn. Definitely the Army would have been his career.
Hyman, who was born in 1921, participated in the Normandy invasion and was killed in France in August 1944. Before joining the Army, he ran the shoe department in my dad’s store. If he survived, he would have possibly taken over the department store after my dad retired.
Upon hearing of my brothers’ deaths, my parents were grief-stricken, and they never got over these devastating losses. In fact, they gave all their possessions to a relative, who died in 2010 at the age of 91.
His wife found my brothers’ Purple Hearts, which were stored away in a closet for 65 years, and returned them to my younger brother, who in turn gave them to me.
I was overwhelmed with emotion and would tell my story every chance I got to friends, family and anyone who would listen. I got in touch with a journalist from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Rick Baddie, and he wrote an article in November 2010 about my brothers.
Right after the article, I started my speaking career. In a PowerPoint presentation, I started talking about my brothers and the Purple Hearts. My speech includes many interesting pictures and memorabilia from World War II. Over the past five years I have made more than 50 speeches to many organizations, including the retired FBI organization, schools, and civic, church and veteran groups.
After the first few speeches I began to expand and talk about other war heroes, such as my brother-in-law, Maj. Ralph Coplan, who was a Marine bomber pilot in the Pacific in World War II and flew 65 missions off a carrier. He was awarded 16 battle awards, including three Distinguished Flying Crosses.
Another hero I talk about is Louis Zamperini of “Unbroken.” I had the pleasure of meeting him and had my picture taken with him.
I end my speeches on a patriotic note with the words of country singer Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.”: “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me.”
If any groups are interested in hearing me speak, please contact me at 770-232-4887.