One of the hard parts about this project is that people whom you come to know and love get older and pass away on you. But you are thankful that you came to know them, and how you saw them enrich your life and the lives of others.
I first met Buster over five years ago, when I attended my first 30th Infantry Division reunion and he served as the chaplain and the master of ceremonies and chief auctioneer at our final banquet. He had a funny way of putting folks at ease, and the auctions were like a comedy act. He was very devout and serious about his chaplain duties, though.
I have a couple short video clips to share. The first I post on D-Day every year. A producer from ABC News in New York called me looking for the Benjamin photo for a piece on veterans returning to Normandy. Though the 30th did not land until after D-Day, the fact is that Allied forces were only ten miles in, with some very heavy and decisive battles still ahead for the 30th. They would also be bombed not once but twice by Allied heavy bombers on two consecutive days before the launch of Operation Cobra.Buster was a combat medic. “You did not stop to think about how you would cope. You just did the best you could.”
Buster was so taken with the appearance of the Holocaust survivors in the Old Hickorymen’s lives after 62 years, he told the story everywhere he went. After his wife died unexpectedly, he was at a loss, but I know that getting out into the community to tell the story of the Holocaust and the 30th’s connection to this amazing photograph kept him going for a while. He’d call me up at school, looking for pictures to share with students down South in the classrooms. He became a Holocaust educator! And he was sure proud to be an American.
He and his son Sandy, who also recently passed, expended a great deal of energy traveling to our high school in upstate NY for the last reunion with soldiers and survivors at our high school. At the tail end of this short clip he describes one of the wonders of this trip for him. I guess if I was dancing with a lovely young thing, or two, or three, I would say the same!
To close, I wish to paraphrase the reporter for the ABC story, Erin Hayes:
Maybe, just maybe, a group of students like those at College of the Ozarks will discover [veterans] and they’ll get them to tell their stories, to hear what I heard … that a generation that will soon be gone left us a legacy of bravery and wisdom and resilience.
We really, really should treasure that — before it’s too late.
Rest on, Buster. Peace to their families.
Buster Marion Simmons, 91, a resident of Farmington, Ark., passed away July 20, 2013 in Fayetteville. He was born July 7, 1922 in Orange County, N.C, the son of Tom and Olivia Jackson Simmons.
Buster served in the United States Army during World War II. He was a Combat Medic in the 30th Infantry Division throughout the European theater. He served as the Chaplain for the 30th Infantry Division reunions. Buster attended many reunions in Europe and all over the USA. His favorite trip to Europe was in 1994 when his granddaughter traveled with him. He worked until he was more than 80 years old.
He was preceded in death by his parents; wife of 67 years Bessie Mae Simmons; two sons, Eric G. Simmons and William J. “Sandy” Simmons; three brothers, William Clinton, Glimer and Wayne; one sister Lucille Oakley.
Survivors include one daughter-in-law Kathy Simmons; one granddaughter, Nancy Woodward and husband Rusty; one great-grandson Garrett Woodward and his grand dachshund Buster, all of Farmington.
A Memorial Service will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 23, 2013, at the Luginbuel Chapel in Prairie Grove with Preston Beeks officiating. He will be interred in Burlington, N.C. at a later date.
Memorials may be made to the Willard Walker Hospice Home, 325 E. Longview St. Fayetteville, AR. 72704; Farmington Senior Center – Meals on Wheels, 340 W. Main, Farmington, AR. 72730 or a charity of your choice .