He recalled to me about a day while on patrol in France; As they were walking down a dirt road, he curiously noticed dust flying up around him. He couldn't make sense of it when he suddenly realized that they were being shot at from a distance. The shooter was so far away that they couldn't hear the gunfire. He yelled, “Hey, they’re shooting at us.” Everybody hit the ground. Pinned down by enemy fire, Nat could feel the bullets penetrating the ground beneath him. They guy in front of him yelled “Mother, I’m hit.” Nat reached up and put his hand on the foot of the wailing soldier and said “You’ll be okay.” The boy never answered. This was the first of many soldiers Nat would see die.
Another time, Nat was in a trench and was again pinned down by enemy fire. He was waiting for support when suddenly a Panzer tank rolled over him and stopped. It began firing and he said it was both deafening and terrifying. Every time the tank fired, the ground shook, the ditch he was curled up in was crumbling around him. Nat thought that that was going to be the end of him. American tank support approached from the other side and the Panzer tank retreated. Nat would live to see another day.
Nat remembers it being very cold his first winter over there. Many boys had frost bite on their feet and were taken out on stretchers because they couldn’t walk anymore. Some even had to have their feet amputated. Nat didn’t smoke but took every opportunity to scavenge cigarettes which he would light and hold them cupped in his hands in an attempt to keep his fingers warm. He would sometimes tunnel in the snow at night in an effort to keep warm from the deep, still cold.
Nat and ten other men found themselves being shelled one day. A bomb exploded nearby and everyone was hit by shrapnel. Nat was hit in the heel of his foot. Everyone was lying on the ground either unconscious or unable to move. Nat, on his butt, grabbed each man by their armpits one at a time and on his butt, dragged them to safety and lifted them each over a nearby stone wall. One boy told Nat to save himself and leave him but Nat said no and saved everyone there. He later received a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Silver Star for saving the lives of his fellow soldiers that day.
Nat often spoke of killing many Germans but would never go into detail about what happened. He would pause, choke, stare off, and at times tears would well up in his eyes. He considered what he did to be murder. It has been sixty years and he still breaks down into tears when he talks about what happened. When Nat returned home, his dad was standing on the train platform waiting for him. As Nat got off the train, his dad ran up to him and hugged him. Nat said that that was the first time his dad ever hugged him. Again, Nat breaks into tears as he tells the story. He has asked me many times to drive him to the cemetery where he always weeps at the grave of his parents.
Nat was taken advantage of by some smooth talking, slow, methodical and unspectacular young man with some sort of a felony conviction in his past. He told Nat that he would take care of him for life if Nat signed his house over to him. Nat did. Nat didn't want to risk winding up in a nursing home but wanted to die in his own home. This young man was his salvation. Nat had almost a million dollars in savings and it was willed to his nieces and nephews, his only living relatives. The young man knew that the only way he could get the money was to spend it. He had an addition put on the house, new roof, new wiring, new appliances, AC and began purchasing antiques. The house is filled with so much antique furniture that there is only a narrow path through any one room. The garage has three brand new Cadillac cars in it. Nat told me that the latest purchases had been a $30,000 sofa and $20,000 tub. The young man just makes the purchases and expects Nat to sign the checks, which he does.
Family and friends have all contacted the police, social services or the department of the aging but technically no crime has been committed. When questioned by authorities, Nat says everything is okay. He did confess to me one day that he made a terrible, terrible mistake. Despite all of that, the man is taking care of Nat in his own home and Nat's dying wish will be completed. A promise is not to be despised, not even when its advocate is no gentleman.