Wednesday, April 24, 2013

War Hero's Reward and Deadly Choices

At the 2012 Taylor Family Reunion held in Double Springs, Alabama, the following story was shared.  It is a tragic story--one that details the too-soon ending of a young Taylor man's life.

Charles Washington Taylor, the son of David Vernon and Gertrude (Roberts) Taylor, was born in Polk County, Georgia in July, 1922  Charles's grandfather, George Washington Taylor, was the son of Francis Marion Taylor (Sr.)  His grandfather's family lived in Cherokee County, Alabama--right across the state line from Polk County, Georgia.  When Charles was 14 years old, his family moved to Rome, Georgia where he lived most of his life.

In 1942, Charles answered the call of service to his country and enlisted in the United States Army.  He was Private First Class with the 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division.  After his induction into the army, he trained at Fort Hancock, N.J., Camp Upton, N.Y., and Camp Pickett, Va. Charles' unit served in the European Theater during World War II.  He was stationed in England until the invasion of France.  His unit participated in the invasion at Normandy and landed on Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944.  The soldiers continued the hard-fought battle, pushing inland over the next several weeks until they reached St-Lo, France where Charles received his battle wounds.

PFC Charles Washington
On August 9, his mother received a telegram informing her of her son's serious injury during the war.  The telegram stated he was evacuated to a hospital. Charles was seriously wounded at St. Lo, France.  His leg, shredded by shrapnel, had to be amputated above the right knee. For his wounds, Charles was awarded a Purple Heart.  A monument was erected in the town of St-Lo in honor of the American sacrifices that were made to liberate France from German Nazi occupation.

Charles was discharged from the Army on March 27, 1946.  When he returned to Georgia, he was the first amputee awarded a free 1947 Oldsmobile automobile by the Veterans Administration in Floyd County.  This wonderful tribute to a soldier who had given so much during the war would lead to his tragic death when a deadly choice was made.

On November 24, 1948 Charles and three friends were riding in his new car on U. S. Highway 27 about four miles north of Cedartown, Georgia.  Charles was not driving--a friend was.  His friends told State Troopers that a few seconds before the accident, Charles commented..."You are going 90 miles an hour, hope you know what you're doing--do you think you can hold it?" About the time the last word left his mouth, the car hit the shoulder and skidded 78 yards, finally hitting a guard rail.  Charles was thrown from the car and hurled 27 yards.  He was killed instantly.  His three friends were unhurt.

The driver faced three charges by troopers--reckless driving, driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding.  Indeed, this was a deadly mixture that ended in the tragic death of a friend.  Three choices resulted in the death of a man that survived the dreadful battles in World War II.

Charles was buried at East View Cemetery in Rome, Georgia.  He was survived by his mother, Gertrude, and brother Joe.  Sadly, two years prior to his death, Charles' father, David Vernon Taylor, was killed while walking on a road when he was struck by a pickup truck. His death was ruled unavoidable by authorities.  Ironically, David was also a World War I and World War II veteran.

What was true in 1948 is still  true today.  Driving while drinking is deadly.  May we all remember the lesson.   Friends don't let friends drive while drinking.  Never.

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