BELTON — Retired Col. Renita Foster Menyhert told a story about a soldier, his compassion, and the special dress his bride wore at their wedding after the war.
Menyhert, a former military feature writer and broadcaster, presented a talk, “One Paratrooper’s Journey into D-Day,” at the Bell County Museum’s observance of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion June 6.
Surrounded by a standing-room-only audience, Menyhert recounted the saga of Bob Wright, a World War II Army medic in the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Division, better known as “The Screaming Eagles.”
Wright was destined to take part in the famous Operation Overlord, the ferocious battle in which thousands of Americans and Canadians joined the British sea, air and ground troops to fight on the beaches of Normandy, France, in what would be the turning point of the war.
As the battle raged, Wright found himself in a tiny church in Angoville, a French town of about 50 people. The blood-soaked pews were laden with wounded as Wright labored to save not only the allies, but enemies as well. He refused to withhold treatment from anyone who entered the church, which had become his hospital.
Menyhert recounted how Wright not only gave help to all who needed it, but also strove to raise morale. She gave a few of Wright’s quotes:
“You call that a foot wound? Why you’ll be doing the jitterbug by tonight,” Wright said to one soldier.
During those three days in the small church, Wright, with the help of another medic, saved the lives of 80 soldiers. After the war, he received the Silver Star, the Army’s third-highest military decoration for valor. He brought home the parachute that lowered him into Normandy. That parachute became the wedding dress his bride, Margaret, wore. They would remain married for 55 years, until Wright’s death in 2013.
After Menyhert’s presentation, the audience walked around the room, viewing the WWII memorabilia Menyhert had placed on display: a map of the Normandy beaches the allies had invaded, Sad Sack cartoons, which poked fun at Army life, and the parachute wedding dress.
“This exhibit explores the life arc of the World War II generation as told in their own words,” said Stephanie Turnham, Bell County Museum director.