Posted: Mar 12, 2013 2:05 PM by Sarah Hill
Updated: Oct 23, 2013 12:52 PM
COLUMBIA - Joe Schaefer is one of the men and women many Missourians helped send to Washington, D.C. to see the World War II Memorial during an honor flight.
Schaefer served with the 92nd field artillery and 2nd armored division during World War II. He is also has the kind of smile that when you see it, you feel the corners of your own mouth turning up.
This former door to door produce salesman punctuates the end of a sentence with a giggle when he tells the story of how he sprained his ankle playing softball just weeks before for D-Day.
"I got injured in a softball game, running to first base," said Schaefer.
A bad ankle tear required a cast and while this 22 year old begged to go, doctors kept him away from the battlefield for two months.
Schaefer found a way to find humor in his service. While a bad slide and good luck spared him from the front lines on D-Day. He wasn't as fortunate when it came to the battle of the bulge.
During his service, Schaefer drove what's called a half track. A vehicle he once paraded in the potsdam conference in front of Churchill, Stalin and Truman.
"When it hit, some of the guys got hit by that wall and I had to take them to the hospital," said Schaefer.
Schaefer can no longer see the faces on these pictures. He is legally blind from macular degeneration and viewing old photos is difficult even with special equipment. Despite his disability, this smiling soldier still finds joy in photos from England, Africa and Germany.
But there's one memory that wipes the smile from even Schaefer's face. Paul Schaefer, Joe's younger brother was 22 when he was killed at war.
"He was killed in Europe. They sent him over there and he was killed 4 days before the war ended," said Schaefer.
Memories still bring a familiar expression to Joe's face. Paul served his country and now perhaps his brother gets to carry his smile.
Central Missouri honor flight's resume May 7th.