By John Kanelis
How proud are they of Audie Leon Murphy in Farmersville, Texas?
They are so proud of their favorite son that they wouldn't dare let an international medical pandemic -- which has shut down ceremonies and outdoor events around the world -- stop them from honoring the most decorated soldier to serve during World War II.
They cut the ceremony short, but it took place Monday as scheduled on the 75th anniversary of the day he returned home to Farmersville after receiving the Medal of Honor and 32 other medals on battlefields in Africa and Europe. When he arrived in Farmersville for a major homecoming, he was asked to speak to the crowd of about 5,000 that had gathered to cheer their hometown hero. He told a reporter that he'd rather face an "enemy machine gun nest" than speak before a crowd. Indeed, he did wipe out an enemy machine emplacement, an action in southern France that brought him the Medal of Honor in 1945.
Audie Murphy Day occurs every June 15 in Farmersville, where Murphy had listed as his hometown when he entered the Army during the height of World War II. It is usually a big blowout of an affair, but the pandemic forced the city to scale it back.
Still, a crowd of about 200 residents gathered in the downtown square next to the gazebo that sits just west of the Freedom Plaza Memorial.
I caught up with Murphy's sister, Nadine Murphy Lokey, who now lives in Princeton, but who is a fixture at the annual Audie Murphy Day event.
"We were living in an orphanage when Audie went into the Army," Lokey told me, "but he wanted to be a soldier his whole life. But, oh boy, he was scared to death over there."
Lokey said her brother "had a lot of people praying for him. I was one of them who prayed every day and every night for him. It was a miracle that he survived the war."
Speakers at the gazebo told of how Murphy wore dog tags with his uniform inscribed with "Farmersville, Texas." They noted that a section of U.S. Highway 380 that runs through Farmersville is named the Audie Murphy Parkway and that the Northeast Texas Trail that begins in Farmersville is designated as the Audie Murphy Trailhead. The city is home to a small museum that, sadly, has been closed in recent months because of the pandemic; officials hope to reopen it soon.
Yes, he was a key member of this community. Murphy died in a plane crash in 1971 at the age of 45. He wasn't able to grow old, unlike his baby sister, Nadine.
But the memory of his battlefield exploits live on forever ... as does the love expressed on a hot late spring afternoon for this American hero.
John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.
Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.