A Purple Heart & A Heart of Gold
Jim Jeffrey spoke last at the Southern Oregon Peace rally. The media had gone home, visibly I saw the local three network TV crews set up, shoot, fold up and then split... But, our labor video camera kept rolling! Here is Jim Jeffrey's speech. He said some very powerful words. He spoke from the heart. Jim's Speech on TV: Feb. 19, 21, 26; 6 PM, on cable channel 31, Rogue Valley Community Television, right here in Southern Oregon.
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Peace speech by Jim Jeffrey - 2/15/03 - Alba Park, Medford, Oregon
Hello! I know you're cold, and your feet are cold. Can you take five minutes, or not? Well, this is the first time I've worn my Purple Heart, and this is the first time that I've spoken in public. They asked me to speak and I was terrified. But the time has come for all of us to face and overcome our fears. I have a written text so that I can stay on track and I'll talk fast.
I know that I do not need to tell you how horrible war is so that you will oppose it. Some of you have served, some have lost relatives or friends, true books about war have been written, and films of actual war have been made. But the present reason why I do not have to get you to oppose war is that we here today are helping to make history by working to prevent a war from starting. This is a dramatic and wonderful change.
After World War II people would ask me to tell them "war stories", and at first I enjoyed being the big hero. But I soon realized that they only wanted to be entertained, and were not really getting the message. Eventually I was told that the war was over and that I should forget about it and get on with my life. But I could not forget it, and the only way I could get on with my life was to work to prevent war. To show why, I will have to revert to telling a war story.
On January 1, 1945... Let me say Iém not just speaking for myself. I feel that I'm speaking for all the guys who didnét make it. O.K. On January 1, 1945, my infantry battalion was in a frozen forest in France. Early in the morning a German force attacked and we fought all that day, and many men on both sides were killed. At dark, six of us went to sleep in a depression halfway up the side of a hill. At daybreak we awoke and found that a large group of enemy soldiers had occupied the lower part of a hill across from us. They could not see us and after a while began climbing up the hill. We decided that if they reached a place from which they could see us we would open fire.
Usually in combat we had fired immediately at the enemy without thinking. But in this case I had my sights on a man for long enough to think about what I was going to do, and why. My mind and emotions were in turmoil. I was 19 years old. I had been brought up to revere life and to be kind and helpful to others. Why was I in this position? Who had put me here? How could I murder men about whom I knew nothing except the color of their uniforms? Finally I decided that I must kill them, but first I had to promise myself that if I survived this war I would work the rest of my life to prevent another war. I began killing. They fell and slid down through the white snow leaving tracks of dark red. After half an hour of keeping them from moving we heard tanks coming along the road below. Fortunately for us they were American. We made prisoners of the enemy soldiers who were still alive.
Eleven days later, the 12th of January, our battalion was stretched along the crest of a hill and ordered to walk down a long slope. When we were half way down, our entire formation was hit by a horrendous artillery barrage which tore us to bloody pieces. I was hit twice by shrapnel. The first burst fractured my skull, closed my right eye, fractured my right hand, and tore a piece out of my right arm. The second burst shattered both bones in my left leg below my knee. After the barrage stopped I tried to put a tourniquet on my leg with my left hand, but could not. I went to sleep, but was awakened by the firing of shots. A German soldier came, pointed his rifle at me, and beckoned. I could not stand, so called to a friend and he saved my life. Although wounded in the heel he carried me on his back several hundred yards to the German line.
I received excellent treatment from the German surgeons, but was then taken to an old building and put on an iron cot in a small room with three other persons: a young infantry soldier with one leg missing, an American fighter pilot with a broken leg, and an English bomber pilot also with a broken leg. We received almost no treatment or food and I was near death from infection and malnutrition when we were liberated in April of 1945.
After 15 months of nutrition, surgery, and physical therapy in an Army hospital in the States I was discharged from the service. My leg was two inches shorter but compensated by a built-up shoe. My Captain had also been wounded and captured, and in the hospital he told me that he had been on reconnaissance on January 12 and knew that if we advanced according to plan we would be slaughtered. He pleaded with the Lieutenant Colonel to let us approach our objective by a different route. The reply to the Captain was that he had one minute to begin the attack as planned and that afterward he would be court martialed for resisting an order. The Lieutenant Colonel watched the slaughter through his binoculars and later was promoted to full Colonel. During wars this sort of thing occurs continually but is not made public. For all of these reasons and more I have studied and worked to prevent war.
Last Monday night I attended a meeting sponsored by Peace House. Some 45 persons of all ages were there, and we planned various peace activities, including those for today. It was wonderful because everyone was highly motivated, cooperative, and full of hope. They spoke of a paradigm shift, from being against war to being for peace. They proved that in spite of the terrible destructive power of the warmongers the true human spirit is indomitable. What we are doing here in the Rogue Valley of Oregon for peace and justice is also being done all over our wonderful nation and world.
To close my remarks I must point out that all of those brave young Americans in WW II who were sent to fight and be killed in Africa and Europe were told that the enemy was fascism led by the fascist dictator Adolf Hitler. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
defines fascism as: "A philosophy or system of government that advocates or exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with an ideology of belligerent nationalism." This means that fascism was only temporarily defeated in WW II, that it has re-emerged in our own nation, and that it is being led by the aspiring dictator George W. Bush.
My hope is that history will record that George W. and the other insane, fascist persons who sponsor him tried to rule us by destroying democracy, establishing a fascist dictatorship, and building an empire to enrich themselves and inflate their egos by forcing our young people
to fight and die in wars of aggression.. but that their scheme failed, and instead George W. and company accidentally brought us all together in a great movement through which we re-created democracy in our nation, prevented war, voted Bush and Cheney out, worked with the rest of the world, and achieved universal peace, cooperation, and prosperity. Together let us make this come true. Thank you, and have a great, peaceful day.
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