GREENVILLE — Commander Robert A. Foster of the Darke County chapter of Disabled American Veterans (DAV) was on hand Saturday morning during Greenville’s annual Veterans Day parade, as he and local World War II vets Dale Marker and Clark Lease placed a wreath in front of the memorial headstone at the Darke County courthouse.
DAV is a nonprofit group offering free assistance to veterans and their families in obtaining benefits earned through military service. Marker and Lease, veterans of the U.S Army’s 3rd and 34th Infantry, respectively, are long-time members of the organization’s Honor Guard, volunteers who help render military funeral honors for eligible veterans, and also take part in parades and other ceremonies.
“These two men have done so much,” Foster said of Marker and Lease. “They’ve been on the Honor Guard for over 35 years. We average 70 funerals a year, and they’ve been to almost all of them.”
Their service didn’t begin there, however. Marker, age 93, served in Italy during the war, where he was present at the Battle of Anzio, reportedly the 10th most lethal battle in history by estimated number of Americans killed.
“We were pinned down for fourth months,” Marker said. “Germans had the hills all around us.”
Marker served in the same outfit as Audie Murphy, one of the most decorated American soldiers of World War II. Marker himself earned a Silver Star for valor, and was wounded in action twice, once by shrapnel from German artillery and once by friendly fire.
“It was about 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning,” Marker said. “I was out talking to the machine gun sergeant, and these shells started coming over. I said, ‘That’s our own artillery, but it’s getting a little too close to suit me.”
Marker ran to take over in a nearby foxhole, but was injured before he could reach it.
“The kid in the foxhole died next to me in the hospital that night,” Marker said. “I went to see his folks after I got back to the States. His mom was tickled to death that somebody came to talk to her.”
Lease, age 94, is also a decorated veteran. Also serving in Italy, he received a Bronze Star after exposing himself to enemy machine gun fire to force the withdrawal of a group of soldiers who had his comrades pinned down inside an occupied house.
Lease shared an amusing story about his service at the beginning of the war.
“On my twentieth birthday, I was on a British ship called the Empress of Japan,” Lease said. “When the war started, they changed it to the Empress of Scotland.”
As organizer of the Veterans Day parade, Commander Foster’s role involves contacting groups like the Jeepsters, the VFW and American Legion and inviting them to take part in the event, as well as contacting local dignitaries like the mayor. He expressed gratitude to those who participated.
“I just want to thank the Greenville Junior ROTC, the high school band, and everybody that took part in making this year’s parade a success,” Foster said.