Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Story of a Soldier – Sunday Tribute

Treasure hunting and researching has an amazing way of revealing stories and facts that we are not really searching for. Thursday afternoon I was out checking new site leads when I ran across a little cemetery in the middle of nowhere. No road, no sign, just a pasture/hay field and way over in the back edge an old cedar tree. There were about 15 tombstones but the one under the old cedar made me curious for some reason. It was the grave of a 22 year old WWII veteran and the only soldier in the small cemetery. His name was Raymond Blackburn, PFC US Army.

I made my rounds after finding the little cemetery and later that evening at home, for some reason I could not keep from looking into this young soldier and his story.

It is not unusual to find soldiers in small family cemeteries, but I guess what really got me curious was that he died December 25, 1943. I could not get the fact that he died on Christmas Day out of my head. I had to know why or how. After some late night research I found that his story was not at all what I had pictured, but should be told today.

Raymond, I bet they called him Ray, was stationed at Camp Breckinridge Kentucky. The army post was an inland prisoner of war camp for 3000 German prisoners from 1943 to 1946. Ray had a pass for the Christmas weekend (may have been a week pass) and left Camp Breckinridge, bought his girlfriend a necklace for Christmas, and started hitchhiking his way to Paducah Kentucky where she lived. I can't assume any of the events as they are not known, but after reaching Paducah sometime before Christmas Day, Ray was walking across a railroad trestle and must have slipped on the snow causing him to fall off. The fall broke his back and no one knows for sure how long Ray laid in the snow, but long enough to wear a hole in his shoe on the rocks, trying to move. Ray was alive on Christmas Day when some men got to him, but the corner said he already had pneumonia from the exposure, and when they tried to move him it severed his spinal cord. Ray never made it to his girlfriend to give her the necklace and although he did not die on a beach in France, he was still a soldier trying to get home, he will always be one of our Heroes and the Treasure I found Thursday.

Salute Raymond Blackburn and to all our Soldiers trying to get home. Gods Speed. Come Home Safe.

May all of your trails be smooth and your treasure sites many.
Best wishes and Good Hunting

It has been said that nothing great has ever been accomplished without passion.