At the reception after the funeral, my brother told everyone that there was a story that my grandfather had told him many times; the story of how he got shot.
At the time, Big Mike was with his fellow rangers traversing the land during the winter, from cover to cover. They’d go from one shell hole to the next. To be fair, they rotated the point man each time they got into a crater. The point man would jump up and run into the next crater. Just as he landed inside, a machine gun would open up with a burst or two. Then the rest of the men would jump up and run into the crater. Then it was Big Mike’s turn. He jumped up and started to run when a mortar shell landed inside the crater he just left, killing everyone inside. Instead of ducking into the crater, he looked back and an MG42 opened up and raked him with fire. He fell to the ground. He remained completely still for a time before he again attempted to move into the crater. The enemy MG opened up and again raked him with fire. He remained still for a time, and then upon realizing he had been hit in the head, took snow and packed it into his helmet before putting it back on his head. He knew he would die if he fell asleep so he resolved to stay awake and keep his eyes open, which he did…for close to eight hours. When fellow Americans pulled up to gather all the wounded, they left him lying there because he looked like he was dead. When they came back to gather the dead bodies, one guy walked up to him and was about to kick his dog-tags into his teeth when he finally blinked.
“This one’s alive.”
They finally got him into medical care and sent him back stateside. At Waldor Road Hospital*, he was not receiving good enough care to survive his injuries, until a general, who had known his father**, recognized him in passing and raised a fuss about it. Suddenly, Big Mike received all the care and medication he could get. If it weren’t for that general, he probably would not have made it.