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Member Highlight: Purple Heart Recipient Shares Story of Survival During World War II

Thursday, November 16, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Dorothy Taylor
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Imagine waking up cold, bloodied and alone after just withstanding a German attack during WWII. That’s exactly what happened to Donald Morrison, 91, a resident of Buckner Villas, a senior living community in North Austin. He served in the Army from 1944 until 1946 and was injured during his service when the Germans attacked his division. Morrison was struck by shrapnel from an enemy artillery shell, grazing his face – which bled profusely – and striking him in the chest, knocking him unconscious. With the amount of blood from his head wound and the tear in his chest, he was presumed dead and left behind. When he eventually came to and reunited with his division hours later, he began receiving treatment, and that was when he realized it was the small Bible in his pocket that had saved his life. The Bible stopped a piece of the shrapnel from piercing his heart. After the accident, Morrison was awarded the Purple Heart, a military decoration awarded to those wounded or killed while serving.

“I am blessed to be alive,” said Morrison. “That Bible holds a special place in my heart, and every time I look at it I am reminded how lucky I am. I went to church sometimes, but I was never really religious. After the accident I knew there had to be a God. I had a few other close calls, but I was never wounded again. I am thankful to Buckner Villas for honoring veterans, and I look forward to attending the program on Veterans Day.”

Morrison was born in 1926 and raised in Wisconsin. After graduating high school in 1944, Morrison tried to get into the Navy but was rejected because he didn’t pass the physical exam. His father told him if he really wanted to join the military he would have to leave the family’s dairy farm and get a job in town. because the draft board didn’t want to take farmers away from their war effort contributions. So Morrison moved to the city and got a job. Six weeks later he was drafted into the Army. He entered active duty in August of 1944 in Milwaukee, then went to Fort Sheridan north of Chicago before heading south to Camp Wheeler in Georgia for basic training. He trained for just 14 weeks before deploying to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. Morrison was loaded onto a ship and travelled for 11 days across the Atlantic to Scotland. From there he took a train through England and France before crossing into Belgium. Once there he reported to Company K, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. But he wasn’t there long.

“The first night I got sick and went to the hospital,” said Morrison. “The doctors told me I had the mumps and my feet had frostbite. I ended up staying there for two weeks. Once I returned to the 2nd Infantry Division I got sick again. When I went back to the hospital I found out I had Scarlet Fever and stayed in the hospital for three weeks. Luckily when I recovered I returned to Company K, and I remained with them until the end of the war.”

Morrison was injured on March 23, 1945. His division was under fire and officers told him to get down. When he stood up to get his machine gun, shrapnel from a German 88mm shell hit Morrison in the face and appeared to rip a hole in his chest before knocking him unconscious. The other soldiers weren’t hit and believed Morrison was dead, so they picked up his weapon and continued on. Morrison later regained consciousness and went looking for the rest of his division. He caught up with them a few hours later and received treatment for his injuries. If it wasn’t for the Bible in his pocket, Morrison says, the shrapnel would have fatally punctured his heart.

“I carried a small Bible in combat with me,” said Morrison. “When the medics were treating me, they noticed a hole in my jacket. They removed my Bible and noticed a piece of shrapnel embedded about three quarters through the New Testament. The shrapnel stopped directly over the first book of Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 10 which read, ‘But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.’ The look on my fellow soldiers’ faces when they saw me was priceless. They thought they were looking at a ghost. To this day I remember what I saw when I was unconscious. It was my younger sister and brother who were right there with me. It’s something I will never forget.”

Morrison returned to the United States on July 20, 1945. The Army granted him a 30-day furlough, so he returned to Wisconsin and got married, like many other veterans, before reporting to camp Swift. In April 1946, Morrison received an honorable discharge from the Army as a corporal. He went back to Wisconsin and started working. He held various jobs before moving to Austin in 1970, where he worked for the Travis County Tax Accessor’s office until he retired in 1991. He recently moved to Buckner Villas, a senior living community in north Austin, and is a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Texas Capital Chapter 1919.

“Don is an American hero, and we are honored that he calls Buckner Villas home,” said Doyle Antle, executive director. “He is an inspirational resident with an excellent story. We find it fascinating to hear about his time in the Army and the different things he experienced. His story of survival is riveting, and we are thankful for his service. This Veterans Day we honored all of the veterans living at Buckner Villas, including Don. They put their lives on the line for us, and I hope they know we are forever grateful for their sacrifices.”

Source: Chelsi Smith/Amy Jones, The Point Group.
Photos Courtesy of Buckner Villas

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