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Politicians in Spencer County and nationwide spent the final days of the campaign this weekend stumping for votes and making political speeches as Americans prepared to head to the polls on Tuesday.
However, as U.S. Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke in Taylorsville Saturday afternoon, it was fitting that he shine some of the spotlight on a man who helped make this wonderful election process possible – a war veteran.
McConnell spoke to a packed room of Republican candidates and supporters Saturday afternoon at the county’s GOP headquarters but postponed his partisan speech by recognizing Mason Rucker of Elk Creek, a decorated WWII Veteran for his service and remembering others who have made similar sacrifices.
Calling Rucker a member of the country’s “greatest generation”, McConnell described how Rucker and so many other Americans soldiers advanced across Europe in the weeks following D-Day to eventually force the Germans into surrender.
In a previous interview, Rucker gave a first-hand account of the action he saw following his landing on June 8, four days after the famous landing on Normandy.
He was part of the 1st Division that began a long march across France, pursing German forces who continued to retreat following the massive invasion. On July 26, Rucker’s unit was on the march and followed some German troops over a hill.
“We chased them Germans all morning long,” he recalled.
As they topped the hill in pursuit, Rucker and three of his fellow U.S. soldiers climbed on top of a tank that was rolling along side them. Rucker said he knelt down behind an open hatch and soon after, the German troops opened fire.
Rucker was struck by several bullets and knocked off the tank. He noticed he was missing two fingers on his right side and had other injuries as well, including broken ribs and injured lungs and several other serious wounds.
He was able to crawl to a hedgerow, and was eventually pulled to safety. All three of the other soldiers who joined Rucker on that tank minutes earlier were killed.
Rucker was transported back to the U.S., where he spent some 18 months in various hospitals recovering from his injuries, finally being discharged from the Army in February of 1946.
He returned to Kentucky, met his wife Irene on a blind date, began farming and later spent 29 years working at G.E. He and his wife will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary on July 4th of 2011.
Americans exercised their right to vote on Tuesday thanks to the sacrifices of those like Rucker and this Saturday, Americans will have an opportunity to say thank you as Guard Duty prepares its annual Veterans Day celebration on Saturday morning.
The events will kick off with a Veterans Day Service at Grace Chapel Church, near Ray Jewell Park at 10 a.m., followed by a wreath laying and military flyover at 10:30 a.m.
The military parade will begin lining up at the high school at 11 a.m. and organizer D.J. Fee said something new is being added this year. She said members of the public who would like to march in honor or a family member who is a veteran, or who is serving now, or even if you want to walk to represent a veteran who may not be related, can assemble near the Family Dollar Store and they will lead the parade.
They’ll walk silently and reverently in honor of those who have and who are serving, and will be placed in a spot near the Veterans monument downtown to watch the parade pass by.
Following the parade, there will be a reception following at Grace Chapel.