June 29, 2007 - Posted at 5:11 p.m. CDT
PARAGOULD-For World War II veteran James Branch, a recent trip to Washington, D.C. was a chance to reflect and hold onto a piece of his past.
Branch was part of the 38th regiment of the 2nd infantry, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
As an Arkansas native, he says Washington, D.C. was a whole new experience.
"In Washington, D.C. there's no pickup trucks or dogs. It's just all shiny cars. Being from down here you see the pickup trucks with the dogs in the back end. Not up there. It was all shiny cars, no pickup trucks," said Branch as he laughed.
Pickup trucks or not, the trip held several memorable moments for Branch.
One was the laying of a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Afterwards, a moment with a sergeant lead to the exchange of a Infantry Combat Badge.
"When I asked him, is yours broken; at that moment he looked down at it, and did everything precise. He looked down at it, pulled his jacket off and pulled that thing off. He reached down and he put it in my hand. I didn't know what to think," reflected Branch.
He says that moment in his trip to Washington D.C., was the most touching because of the true meaning behind the Infantry Combat Badge.
"That infantry badge to me is next to the purple heart or the congressional medal. Anybody that wears one of them deserves my appreciation," said Branch.
What he found was dozens of people showing their own appreciation to the group of 31 veterans, for the service they did for their country.
"We were a red tag outfit. When you look at that bunch now, you wonder how we ever won World War II. (laughs) You really do, we were a sad looking bunch," chuckled Branch.
However, he says when it came to the war, it was a mission that had to be accomplished.
"There was a determination that won World War II. I think everybody realized, especially in the infantry, it was a war that had to be won," said Branch.
And for that reason we salute our veterans.