Life in Kansas City – D Day

I title posts “Life in Kansas City” which I’d consider more interesting to family members who read this blog. Of course you are welcome to read along to the end as the story comes together.  This post is about an ironic occurrence in my life.

June 6, 1944 marks the day of the invasion at Normandy. A family member was on Omaha beach that day and as destiny would have it, set an example that would effect my father’s decision to become a police officer. In turn that would influence my decision to follow their footsteps. 

Last Saturday Karen and I went to Home Depot to order carpeting for several areas in our home before it goes on the market. The sales clerk was very informative. So much that it was decided we would order carpet through her. She handed me a business card and I noticed the last name was Orr. I asked where her family was from and she said Orr is her husband’s last name and his family is mostly from Mt. Vernon Missouri. I let her know my grandmother is an Orr from Mt. Vernon and hence we are cousins.

Karen and I left the carpet section to pick up a few items. Maybe a half hour later a gentleman came down the lumber isle and asked if my name was Mark to which I said yes, and this is my wife Karen. The gentleman’s name is Ed Orr, son of Thomas Orr who landed on Omaha Beach, earning the Silver Star and Purple Heart. Tom was my grandmother’s brother.

Tom_and_Glenna_Orr_1942

Well Ed was very excited to learn he had family living nearby for all these years. I told him I did not recall Uncle Tom had more than one son, with the other having passed away years ago. I said, Ed I want to pass along something about your father that is very important to me. I became a police officer indirectly because of your father. I used to swing by your father’s house while on-duty for a visit every now and then. I am very proud of my uncle. My father made sure I knew Tom’s story.

My father has passed away put left behind a 71 page document which summarizes his life in short descriptions. Dad was a cop for over 50 years. Among those stories is one about Uncle Tom Orr which reads as follows:

“I got to write a V-Mail letter to, I think, Uncle Tom in Europe. You wrote it on a special form which the government microfilmed and sent in rolls to Europe where they were blown up a little and printed like photographs of letters. We got them back the same way. This was something new, after the War had been going on for a couple of years, maybe ?43 or ?44.

Just a little about my Uncle Tom Orr, because I followed him into the Army Military Police and that pretty well set my life’s pattern. He was a platoon sergeant in an MP company in the Normandy invasion, Omaha Beach, 2nd wave. Bad place to be. They had the door blown off their landing barge, half the platoon, including the lieutenant, were killed right off the bat. When he got to shore he crawled into an 88 hole (shell crater of a German 88mm cannon). Another incoming shell blew him out of the hole but he crawled back in, The 88?s had been zeroed-in before the invasion so they could hit any square yard on the beach at will.

If you saw any movies about Normandy, like The Longest Day, or D-Day, you know the Americans were pinned down on Omaha Beach and getting murdered. They had to get a hole punched in a wall before they could go in, which was done by some brave army engineer troops. As soon as a hole was opened the troops and tanks started pouring through. Problem was, it caused a big traffic jam, with every tank and other vehicle wanting through at once to get away from the incoming artillery on the beach. Uncle Tom looked over there from his shell hole and realized that traffic jams were something MPs should take care of. So he did. I think he stood there 24 hours without relief, exposed to fire, directing traffic. He was awarded the silver star and not too long after that was promoted to lieutenant.

So the army got off the beach, the invasion was a success after all, and we won the war. Thanks to my Uncle Tom and the Military Police Corps. Nine years later I was an MP too. It had to be.”

Now back to the irony in all of this. And I’ll preface this by saying in no way would I want someone to think I’m minimizing the event that took place on Omaha Beach; I just want to pass along how my great-uncle influenced events in my own life.

As stated early in the story, Karen and I ran into Uncle Tom’s son at Home Depot during which I passed along much of this story. My father became a Military Policeman because of Uncle Tom and then a police officer. I became a Military Policeman because of my father and then a police officer.

I was with a city police department which has a retirement plan through the state. I later moved to the Sheriff’s Office which has an additional retirement plan for county employees. This plan requires a minimum number of years before one is vested. And a year of credited service is based on having at least 1000 hours worked in a given year. 2019 became my retirement year as I want to be vested in the additional county employee retirement plan. I’ve been literally counting the hours on a board in my office.

Dad and Don at County (640x480)

This is a board in my office where I’m counting the hours.

On the left of this board is the date 6/5/19 which is today, followed by 4 hours which is how many hours I have left before being vested in the county retirement plan. Tomorrow, June 6th, I’ll be vested in the plan – D Day! 

So this retirement event is far less important than the achievements of my Uncle on the beach with his dying friends. But, if you can hear me Tom – Thank You for your service and I want you to know how influential you are, generations later.  I’m working for myself now, tomorrow at noon, four hours into my work day – I’ll be telling my co-workers the goal is reached and how it all began. They will hear the story of my Great-Uncle Tom!

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