That’s me earlier this month with Major Nathan Kline, one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I was up at a dementia care facility called Arden Courts, in Allentown, PA to run a SBYF workshop. Of course I noticed Major Kline immediately in his uniform, with the shiny medal (which I later learned was the French Legion of Honor – the French equivalent of the Medal of Honor – given to him in Paris by Nicolas Sarkozy).
Major Kline isn’t a resident at Arden Courts. He comes in frequently to chat with the veterans. After the program I got talking to Maj. Kline….and 30 minutes later we were still talking. Well, mostly I was listening.
He told me his story: how at 18 he’d decided to enlist, but couldn’t get his parents to sign off on it, so he convinced an uncle to sign for him. He had a dream to be a fighter pilot, but he failed his eye test (“20/40 vision – just about shattered my heart,” he said). He spent two years as what he disdainfully called a “blanket counter” – meanwhile, “pilots were being shot down faster than they could replace them.” Maj. Kline again went in for an eye test, but this time he sneaked in the night before and memorized the eye chart, which he still effortlessly recited to me, over 65 years later.
On D-Day, he flew his B-26 toward Normandy and dropped eight 500 lb. bombs on a German railyard. On the way out (and please take a minute to process this) a piece of flak shot through the plane’s nose, between his legs, and out the top of the plane. His reaction?
“I was mad the thing shredded my darned map.”
Special thanks to Karen Francis for organizing, to congressman Doug Reichley for attending, and all the wonderful participants at Arden Courts – what a great day!