Ten years ago, I was packing for my deployment to Iraq when I stopped to ask my wife Becky what she feared most.
“I’m afraid you’ll be killed doing something heroic,” she said.
I answered her with an embrace, proud she thought me capable of that kind of mettle.
This past week, I rehashed those thoughts while touring the resting place of thousands of World War I soldiers in France and Belgium. The outing with Baxter’s Battlefield Tours was called “Faith under Fire” because it focused on the heroism of WWI chaplains.
Our tour guide, Paul Prendergast, took us to St. Sever Cemetery in Rouen, France to visit the grave of Chaplain Theodor B. Hardy, the most decorated noncombatant of the Great War.
Hardy was 52 years old in 1916 when he told his wife Florence that he was voluntarily deploying to the Western Front. I imagine Florence reacted much the same way as my wife. She didn’t want her husband to make heroic risks, but she knew he’d follow his calling.
Like many combat chaplains, Hardy moved quietly inside the darkened trenches to offer guidance and consolation along with cigarettes and sweets. But it was his reputation for advancing from those trenches with his men that endeared him in military history.
He received his first decoration from the Battle of Passchendaele, in October 1917 where the British lost 275,000 men.
The Distinguished Service Order reads, with a “broken wrist and under the worst weather conditions, he crawled out with patrols within 70 yards of the enemy and returned with the wounded men under…
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