By: Kevin Koloian, The Observer
Washington, Aug 25, 2010 -
In a special ceremony on Aug. 17, Congressman Ted Poe presented the family of the late Thomas Truxton Reynolds with a long overdue honor recognizing his outstanding service in World War II.
In addition to receiving the Bronze Star, the veteran was posthumously awarded the following awards: Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award and the Honorable Service Lapel Button – WWII.
Like many combat veterans of World War II, Thomas Reynolds was hesitant to talk about his experiences in battle, and his family said he wouldn’t have agreed to the honor if he were alive today.
“They didn’t expect any recognition. They didn’t expect any special treatment. They just went there and did their jobs and wanted to get home to their families to start their life,” said his daughter, Gail Gallien.
The veteran’s wife, Thelma Reynolds, of Champions, and his family accepted the awards on his behalf.
Like many young men of what has come to be known as “the greatest generation,” Thomas was inducted into the United States Army in 1943, a few months short of his 20th birthday.
The son of a pastor, Thomas left behind a wife and young son when he was shipped to England to participate in the Allied invasion of Normandy. He entered World War II in Normandy as part of the 4th Infantry Division’s 22nd Infantry Regiment, landing on Utah Beach on D-Day.
From June 6, 1944, the day of the Normandy landings, until March 14, 1945, the 22nd Infantry Regiment was in almost continuous combat. During the course of those months, combined battle and non-battle casualties of the rifle companies in the 22nd Infantry Regiment exceeded 500 percent when factoring in replacement troops.
When Thomas was discharged from military service, his desire was to put the war behind him and get on with life.
“They all sacrificed so much but were so humble,” Gallien said, “and his heart went out to the families of the ones that didn’t come home. He never forgot what they fought for and flew his flag on days that weren’t even special holidays in memory of his comrades.”
Several years ago his son, Larry Reynolds, became somewhat of a war expert as he retraced the route of his father’s combat experience throughout Europe.
“I called him from various places along the way to try to get him to talk about things,” his son said. “I would tell him, ‘I’m standing here, where you guys were on this specific day during the war.’ And he would give me bits and pieces of information.”
From what little he was willing to share about his military experiences and from military history sources, the family knows that the regiment in which Thomas served played a vital role in several key campaigns.
He participated in the Hedge-row fighting in Normandy, the Breakout of St. Lo, the liberation of Paris, the Battle of Huertgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge, among others.
Thomas was even part of the penetration of the famous Siegfried Line, becoming the first American infantry unit to cross into the German Reich.
During his service, he was responsible for routing, capturing and destroying enemy forces in fortified positions.
“I think fighting in a war like that did two things for him when he came back home,” his son said. “I don’t think he ever feared anything. After coming back, there was no person or no situation that frightened him from what I can tell. I also think that his military experience gave him the discipline that he always wanted. He was very organized and planned everything and carried those plans out, like he did in the military.”
Thomas Reynolds passed away Jan. 31, 2008. He left behind his wife and four children - Larry, a retired pastor; Craig Reynolds, the pastor of Second Baptist Church-North in Kingwood and retired Houston Astros player; Tommy Reynolds, business owner and former business partner; and daughter Gallien, district director for state Rep. Debbie Riddle. He was laid to rest at Veteran’s National Cemetery in Houston.
“His life is summed up by the inscription of his tombstone that says, ‘He lived with honor,’” Gallien said.