State Rep. Julie Calley honored Roscoe Hires and Donald Eckman, two World War II veterans, at the state Capitol on Thursday.
“As Americans, we have an obligation to revere and elevate those who have defended the freedoms we so often take for granted,” said Calley, of Portland. “These two veterans not only showed tremendous courage and selflessness, but after they returned home, they chose to mentor and support other servicemen and women. They are superb examples of the Greatest Generation.”
Hires was drafted into the Army and became a member of the 101st Airborne division. He received his Purple Heart when he was hit by shrapnel in Neff, Belgium during the Siege of Bastogne. Later in the war, a German sniper killed four members of Hires’ squad four days after they landed in Holland. A bullet from the sniper ricocheted off Hires’ helmet grazing his head. After the war, Hires worked for Clark Equipment. He now resides in Ionia.
Eckman was drafted into the Army in 1944 and served with Company B 3rd Infantry Division. He received two Purple Hearts, most notably during the battle near Holtzwhir when his platoon moved forward to a wooded area to observe a German tank division near a small town. With only 25 to 30 men in their company, they moved forward to the edge of the wood line. His platoon leader, Audie Murphy, along with Eckman and a few other soldiers snuck closer to see what they were facing. The next morning, they discovered a German tank regiment across the road from them. Eckman was wounded and honorably discharged. Following the war, Eckman returned to Lake Odessa.
The ceremony in Lansing was arranged Doug Pickel, president of We the People Giving Back, and the organization’s vice president Eric Calley. The goal of this nonprofit organization is to honor the sacrifice of veterans, their families, and those in public service.
PHOTO INFORMATION: State Rep. Julie Calley of Portland and her husband, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, stand behind World War II veterans Donald Eckman (left) and Roscoe Hires, after Rep. Calley presented each with a legislative tribute for their service. The two veterans also were presented hand-crafted plaques to commemorate their being recipients of Purple Heart for being wounded in battle.