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An honor deferred

Ross Cline awarded Bronze Star after 60 years

Ross Cline awarded Bronze Star after 60 years

February 14, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

FUNKSTOWN - Too emotional for words, Ross Cline's mother scrawled 10 lines of advice for her son when he left for the U.S. Army.

Though the note survived its travels from home to warring shore and back, Cline never saw his mother again.

Monday, about 60 years after he left the U.S. Army, Cline showed the note to veterans, family and friends who had gathered at the American Legion post in Funkstown to see him receive his Bronze Star for meritorious service.

The 80-year-old former infantryman, who marched from France through Germany during World War II, bowed his head and blinked away tears as his wife's nephew pinned the medal to his blue blazer.

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"I was scared to death. I don't know what to say, you don't know what to think about it. You try to forget most of it, if you can," Cline said of the war.

Family members and friends passed around the note Cline's mother had packed in his suitcase before he left his family's Downsville farm to join the war effort. Cline said he looked at the note often while he was overseas.

His mother's advice?

"Be good and don't forget to pray, do not start smoking ..."

The note, now more than 60 years old, is written on yellowed notebook paper and signed by "Mom." Writing in parentheses reveals she "could not talk." Cline explained she was too emotional.

Cline served from 1944 to 1946, said Maryland Army National Guard Maj. John Stevens, who helped his wife's uncle apply for the Bronze Star. Cline earned his Combat Infantryman Badge as a private in Company D, 255th Infantry Regiment, Stevens said.

His mother wrote, "do not go in the infantry if you can get something better ask about being a cook."

He did. The U.S. Army needed infantrymen, he said.

Cline said his mother died on Christmas Eve, 1945. He returned from Europe a short while later.

"She had already passed away, and I didn't know anything about it until I got back," he said.

While Cline had a deferment to tend to the family's farm, he made himself eligible for service after his brother, Thurman, was discharged for medical reasons. On the same sheet of paper his mother used, Thurman wrote, "Anytime you need any thing I can get let me know."

One of 13 children, Cline returned to Maryland after his service ended. He and his wife, Mary Katherine "Kate," raised two children. His son, Mike, who lives in Phoenix, attended the ceremony; his daughter died a year ago, he said.

Stevens, who has served in the Maryland Army National Guard for 23 years, said he was honored to pin a Bronze Star on his wife's uncle's chest.

"It's interesting because here I know him as an old man, and yet, I read these documents, and here is someone who was young and vibrant and fresh out of high school, who was willing to drop everything," Stevens said.

Cline said he was 19 when he joined the U.S. Army, and he celebrated his 20th birthday en route to Europe. As a member of Gen. George S. Patton's 63rd Infantry Division, he marched from the English Channel port city of Le Havre, France, nearly all the way to Berlin, he said.

"I often wonder why I went, but I'm glad I went. I helped out a little bit, I guess," he said.

While Cline said he has tried to forget the war, he said Wednesday he was proud of his Bronze Star.

"I always did know how to present myself, and my mother always said, 'Be the best you can be,'" he said.

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