WWII veteran lived life as quiet hero

November 12, 2011 4:34:05 AM PST
One Chicago-area veteran was a prisoner in one of the most infamous prison camps of World War II. He was also awarded a Purple Heart and, like many vets, said little about the conflict he lived through.

ABC7's Paul Meincke has the story of one veteran who lived his life as a quiet hero.

Tech Sergeant Harold Weir had just finished a hitch in the Army and along came Pearl Harbor. Off to Europe and combat, where in 1944, Harold was cut down by machine gun fire. He lived, but he was captured, and spent the last seven months of the war as a prisoner in Stalag 17.

Like so many others of his generation, Harold Weir didn't talk much about the war. Whatever pain he felt -- from the bullets still in his back, to the images in his head -- he did not share.

"He truly never slept through a night," said Harold's daughter Donna Weir. "My mom told me that. He would always wake up every night."

Within the last 10 years or so, Harold did recount some of what happened to him, and his youngest daughter Donna pitched him on the idea of taking Honor Flight Chicago, the trip to Washington to visit the monument built in honor of the vets of World War II.

"Actually, I forged his signature on the application because he just didn't want to do it," Donna said. "He wasn't interested, but then as soon as I'd told him what I'd done, he couldn't stop talking about it."

And so, a week ago Wednesday, Donna and her dad and over 90 of his contemporaries went to Washington -- wheelchairs and walkers -- to see and remember, to be thanked and cheered.

Those who have been before are overwhelmed. Harold was too.

"Truthfully, he's not much of a big smiler, but he was smiling a lot that day," said Donna. "He kept patting me on the back and on a shoulder telling me he was having a great day."

On the flight home, the vets get letters of tribute from family and from people they don't know. Donna said they were hard to read because she was crying too much.

Harold spent the next day reading all the notes to him. And he cried too. Last Thursday evening, he went to bed, and he never woke up. Tech Sergeant Harold Weir, married 62 years, the father of three daughters, died peacefully in his sleep.

"Ninety-two-years-old. To go in your sleep after a fantastic 48 hours has been very comforting for us, but yeah, we miss him," said Donna.

Harold Weir's funeral was last Sunday. His family and many friends gathered to celebrate the life of the quiet guy with the rye sense of humor. His jokes were often referred to by his family as "Haroldisms".

It is a fair bet that Harold didn't see himself as a hero, but he might not have minded too much seeing the word in all those wonderful letters he read before he went to sleep.

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