Saturday, April 04, 2009

Rare Military Experiences

If the kindness, gentleness and history of Troy Leonard Kitchens were known, the thief probably would not have stolen property from inside the locked toolshed.

The same for whomever recently stole Kitchens' pick-up truck, kept it for a week, and added 700 miles to the odometer. Fortunately, the white '02 Ford Ranger truck was found abandoned at a nearby shopping center in the declining neighborhood of Winston-Salem where Kitchens has lived in the house he built with his hands 60 years ago.  

Mr. Kitchens told me, "I love everybody". He also said, "I hope I didn't kill anybody in the war".  He was referring to WWII and fighting in the Pacific Theater with the 503rd Pacific Regimental Combat Team (PRCT).  These infantry paratroopers fought difficult battles on islands of New Guinea and the Philippines.  Mr. Kitchens is a rare individual with three parachute jumps into combat.  

Kitchens parachuted onto battlefields:

at Nadzab, Markham Valley, New Guinea on September 5, 1943

at Noemfoor Island, New Guinea on July 3, 1944

at Corregidor, Philippines on February 16, 1945

Mr. Kitchens is authorized to wear the Basic Combat Parachutist Badge in the photo below with 3 Combat Jump Stars.  Few men are qualified to wear this badge of honor.

In addition, Kitchens participated in three beach landings where he was delivered near the shoreline on a Landing Ship Transport (LST) and then waded onto the sandy beaches in water up to his nose.

At Corregidor a hand grenade wounded his face and chest in early May 1945.  An enemy bullet entered his right leg near the knee for a second wound on May 20, 1945.  The war ended and a Purple Heart Medal was awarded to PFC Kitchens while hospitalized on Negros Island. An honorable discharge was bestowed him at Fort Bragg at 1:00 AM 12/26/1945 when he arrived there by troop train in the middle of the night.

Kitchens returned home to his wife who bore his daughter a few months after he was drafted in March 1942.  Mr. Kitchens buried his wife at Salisbury National Cemetery in 2005 after 62 years of marriage.  Her casket is nine feet under and some day Troy will be laid to rest on top at six feet under.  In the meantime, Troy lives in retirement from R. C. Flynt & Son, a sewing machine cabinet maker, where he worked 38 years and 4 months.  This family owned company in Winston-Salem, N.C. employed about eleven people. Troy missed 31 days during those years which included time away for an appendectomy and gall bladder removal another time.  He retired in 1986 with no pension, no bonus, and no "thank you" on his last day. He doesn't understand why the owner was angered by his retirement.  The company folded a few years later.

The picture below shows Mr. Kitchens holding a carving he completed in 1946. Troy has the ability to visualize an image inside a block of pine or maple and use a pocket knife to remove the wood around the image leaving these finished horses and wagon in this project. (click on this picture and others to see the intricate detail) This is one hobby he continued throughout life. Charcoal drawings of human faces are framed and displayed on walls of his home.  He drew them. Playing the guitar is another talent he possesses.

Troy believes God sustained him throughout his life.  One devoted uncle was somewhat helpful to him during childhood. The parents he was born to on 6/23/1924 in Greenville, S.C. had a difficult time. Young Troy lived a few years in an orphanage in Asheville, N.C. and his teenage years were on a dairy farm in Mt. Airy, N.C. where he developed strong hands and powerful forearms from milking cows.  He left Flat Rock High School after the tenth grade.

I feel fortunate to have met Mr. Kitchens through membership in the local chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. When Troy and I had lunch to talk about this writing, I told him "I, too, have plans to be buried in the Salisbury National Cemetery in Rowan County of North Carolina".  It will be an honor to be placed in a straight line somewhere on the forty acre site where this patriot will rest. Meanwhile, I will enjoy his friendship and the bond of this fellow veteran until that day comes to one of us.

As far as thieves are concerned, if they would knock on his door and express their need, Mr. Kitchens would probably offer to help them.

Have a good week!



At 4/08/2009 12:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mike, for leaving a legacy so that Troy's friends can read and appreciate everything he has done. A couple of years age, he met my father and the two of them had a great time with the old war stories!


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