Friday, July 2, 2010

To Hell And Back

Totalled up, I've probably spent days and most likely weeks, thinking about Audie Murphy. It started with a viewing of the movie about his days in WWII- To Hell And Back- some twenty years ago while still in my teens. Of course they said the little guy in the movie playing Audie Murphy was in fact Murphy himself. Seemed so hard to believe.

Murphy was small man- 5'5" and of a slight build. He grew up a poor, Texas farmboy one of twelve children. He became a crack shot because he had to in order to feed his family: One of his favorite hunting companions was neighbor Dial Henley. When he commented that Murphy never missed when he shot at squirrels, rabbits, and birds, Murphy replied, "Well, Dial, if I don't hit what I shoot at, my family won't eat today."

He was rejected by damn near every branch of the military, including the Marines and Navy, because of his size. The Army decided he was big enough for them. Still, he had to fight in order to get overseas and into the action.

His bravery in war is legend. His list of medals is too long to list. This we know. What I wonder about Murphy, is how he lived after the war. I do not mean the movie star aspect. Or his gambling and adultery. Rather, I'm talking about the war inside his own mind.

Murphy suffered from shell shock- PTSD as it's known today. With it came the nightmares and depression which would plague him for the rest of his life. At one time, he held his first wife at gunpoint. He became addicted to sleeping pills and realizing his addictions, locked himself in a motel room and fought through withdrawal. One tough amigo.

Audie Murphy was killed in a plane crash in the year of 1971 over Memorial Day weekend. He died nearly broke, squandering millions on gambling, bad investments and women. He was human. He was also one of this country's great, tragic heroes and a person who I will never know enough about.

His grave site in Arlington, is the second most visited after that of JFK.

For more information on Audie Murphy, check out the Audie Murphy Memorial Website