Each year, the St. Marys Servicemen's Detail attempts to honor a veteran from the area who has received the Purple Heart medal for wounds suffered in combat in the U.S. Armed Forces. At their annual banquet on Saturday night, they honored a man who has received not one, but two of the medals.
Francis Resch, a veteran of World War II, was an honored guest at this year's banquet at the Bavarian Hills Restaurant, attending along with his daughter, Cynthia Herzing; two grandchildren, Andrew Herzing and his wife Lily, and Bliss Schlank and her husband Marc; and three great-grandchildren, Aerin, Carrie, and Anna Schlank.
Tom Price, master of ceremonies for the evening's program, explained that he first learned of Resch's military service through Steve Donachy last year on Memorial Day.
"Steve Donachy lives across from Mr. Resch," Price said. "He checks up on him all the time, and he came to me and said, 'You should have Mr. Resch in the parade.'"
As Donachy and Price continued to talk, Price learned that Resch was a Purple Heart recipient, and knew he had found the person to honor at this year's banquet.
"I started this program a few years back and all the Detail members thought it was nice," Price said of the portion of the program honoring past Purple Heart recipients. "We've had Korean War veterans here and we've had mostly World War II veterans here. There's not too many World War II veterans left anymore. I was lucky to find this guy."
Price then shared with attendees a brief summary of Resch's military service, noting that it was "just a small mention of what he went through."
Born in 1923, Resch grew up in the area and attended Central Catholic High School, quitting after the 10th grade. He entered the U.S. Army on April 12, 1943 and attended boot camp in Fort Bliss, Texas. After boot camp he was stationed in the United States until June 1944 and then sent overseas, and he was in the third wave when he landed on Normandy beaches June 9, 1944.
From there, Resch joined up with the Third Army under General George S. Patton.
"Their main objective was to go into the small towns and clean up enemy resistance," Price said. "He told me that going into these towns was something else. You just never knew where they (the enemy) were at. You didn't know what town you were going to get killed in or if this was the day you were going to get killed."
Price was wounded in the leg near Paris in August 1944 and sent across the English Channel to a hospital.
"He healed up and was sent back to his unit, only to be shot in the buttocks running across a field near Metz. Sometimes trouble just follows you all the time," doesn't it?" Price joked.
Resch was once again sent back across the English Channel to a hospital and, once healed, went AWOL for eight days before returning to his unit.
"You can imagine, these guys are wounded, they get discharged from the hospital and they've got to find their own way back to their unit. Their unit never knows when they're coming back, where they're at, or how their wounds are coming, so he thought well it's time for a little R&R," Price said.
When he returned to his unit, they were eventually sent to liberate the Nazi death camp Dachau.
"After a little fighting, quite a bit of fighting, they liberated the camp," Price said. "General Patton got every man in his command there and said he wanted to see every man see the camp and to see the ovens used to exterminate people, the bodies still in them, dead bodies everywhere. He thought how in the world could anyone do something like this."
The Germans surrendered on May 7, 1945, and Resch was discharged on Dec. 5 of that year. His medals include a Good Conduct Medal, five battle stars, the Victory Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge, and two Purple Hearts.
"When I talked to him, he showed me in his finger where there's still a piece of shrapnel that you can plainly see," Price said. "They wanted to give him another Purple Heart, and he said, 'No, I've already got two, what am I going to do with three?'"
Following the war, he enjoyed 62 years of marriage with his wife, Elizabeth, who died five years ago. The couple were married in 1948.
Resch also started St. Marys Metal Finishing in 1969 and Advanced Heat Treating after that. He retired in 1978.
Calling Resch "a true American hero," Price wrapped up his remarks and all those in attendance gave Resch a standing ovation. He was also later presented with a few tokens of appreciation by members of the St. Marys Servicemen's Detail.