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Senior Veterans Reflect on World War II Hero

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., June 2, 2009 – Glenn R. Sheridan sat quietly captivated as he and about 40 fellow World Ward II-era veterans listened to the words of the grandson of one of their generation’s most influential and legendary military figures.

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Retired Army Col. James Patton Totten gives a presentation about the life and legacy of his grandfather, Army Gen. George S. Patton, to a group of about 40 World War II veterans June 1, 2009, in Birmingham, Ala. The presentation was a special event put together by the Department of Veterans Affairs for the World War II competitors of the 23rd Annual National Veterans Golden Age Games. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The 83-year-old veteran of three wars didn’t serve under Army Gen. George S. Patton. He didn’t even serve in the same branch of service, but he was pleased, to say the least, to have the opportunity to hear Patton’s grandson share stories here last night before a modest group of senior veterans participating in the 23rd Annual National Veterans Golden Age Games.

“This is one of the great things we get to enjoy by taking part in events like the Golden Age Games,” Sheridan said of the Patton presentation given by retired Army Col. James Patton Totten. “And it’s nice to bring all these veterans together to learn from each other and talk about our experiences.”

Sheridan, who served nearly 10 years on active duty as a Navy medical corpsman and another 25 years as an Army National Guard mechanic, fought in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. Throughout his 35 years of military service, he said Patton was a leader he always looked up to. And after Totten’s presentation, Sheridan was even more impressed.

“General Patton had a whole lot of influence on [World War II], and because of him, it ended a lot sooner than it probably would have, otherwise,” Sheridan said. “So to hear these stories from his grandson was a real treat.”

Totten told family stories of his grandfather’s career and pastimes and praised the World War II-era military members for setting the example for future generations to follow. Totten, a Vietnam War veteran himself, said there’s no comparison to his grandfather and the World War II veterans as to which is the greatest generation. 

Although Patton is remembered for his keen military skills and intelligence, the group of veterans learned that his success didn’t come easily. The general suffered from dyslexia and had difficulty making it through the ranks until the latter part of his 37-year career, Totten said.

Patton was actually almost kicked out of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., for poor academics but was retained solely because of his military bearing. Patton ended up having to repeat his freshman year, Totten told the group.

“I was very surprised and quite taken back by what Patton had to overcome to be the kind of leader he was,” Sheridan said.

In spite of Patton’s adversity, his leadership and legacy still became a symbol of America’s military and an example for today’s leaders waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Patton and his generation of troops set the standard for modern leaders, Totten said.

“Those of us who’ve had the opportunity to meet with young soldiers today fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq can be very proud of those young men following in your footsteps,” he said. “A large part of their success is because of the standard of leadership set by your generation and men like George Patton.”

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAbout 40 World War II veterans listen to retired Army Col. James Patton Totten give a presentation about the life and legacy of his grandfather, Army Gen. George S. Patton, June 1, 2009, in Birmingham, Ala. The presentation was a special event put together by the Department of Veterans Affairs for the World War II competitors of the 23rd Annual National Veterans Golden Age Games. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden   
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