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18D AGO

World War II veteran Henry Langrehr honored Saturday at John Deere Classic

4 Min Read

Impact

World War II veteran Henry Langrehr was honored at the John Deere Classic on Saturday as part of a week dedicated to honoring all military guests and first responders.. (Matthew Mramer/PGA TOUR)

World War II veteran Henry Langrehr was honored at the John Deere Classic on Saturday as part of a week dedicated to honoring all military guests and first responders.. (Matthew Mramer/PGA TOUR)



    Written by Craig DeVrieze @PGATOUR

    SILVIS, Ill. – A self-described “duffer” for much of his nearly 100 years, Henry Langrehr never sweated over a fast-breaking, downhill 4-foot putt, nor much of anything else.

    He even could shrug off a tree falling into his kitchen in the middle of a recent Midwestern storm.

    Parachuting behind the lines of Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, fighting through hedgerows in the midst of the hand-to-hand battles that ensued and holding a friend in your arms as he said the Lord’s Prayer before he died lends a lifetime of perspective.

    “Going through those hedgerows was a rough way to go,” he said Saturday as a featured guest of the John Deere Classic. “We lost a lot of good men. But I survived it, and I had a beautiful family. And I wondered, ‘What about those other beautiful boys we lost?' They didn’t see life at all.”

    Langrehr’s Saturday visit capped a John Deere Classic week dedicated to honoring all military guests and first responders in the midst of a Fourth of July celebration.

    In addition to providing veterans and first responders free grounds admission tickets as part of the TOUR’s Lowe’s Military Appreciation Program throughout the week, the tournament embraced the TOUR’s fundraising partnership with Folds of Honor, an organization that has raised more than $244 million to provide scholarships to more than 52,000 children and spouses of fallen or disabled military members and first responders since 2007.

    On Wednesday, John Deere Classic title sponsor Deere & Company announced a $100,000 two-year program to support the USO, the leading non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the wellbeing of military members and their families.

    “Obviously, the Fourth of July corresponding with our first day of play on Thursday was a great opportunity to have as many military members out as we could and honor them in any way we could,” said Assistant Tournament Director Ashley Hansen, noting their tournament will reprise those efforts when the tournament tees off around America’s birthday celebration again next year.

    "Today, we have a really special guest in Henry and we’re really excited to honor him and his service.”

    Pictures of Henry Langrehr during his time in the United States Army as well as a current photo as part of the 80th anniversary of D-Day. (Credit Kay Schneider)

    Pictures of Henry Langrehr during his time in the United States Army as well as a current photo as part of the 80th anniversary of D-Day. (Credit Kay Schneider)

    Langhrer returned to his native Clinton, Iowa, after a World War II experience that included time and a subsequent escape from a German prisoner-of-war camp. He started a construction business and a family, having two sons and two daughters.

    Not until the 50th anniversary of D-Day, though, did he share his still vivid memories of that traumatic chapter of his life. He has made up for lost time since, writing a book and making countless school appearances to share his story and ensure ensuing generations truly understand the sacrifice those who fought for their country in the Second World War and the too many wars that have followed.

    “I still have a lot of faith in younger people,” he said. “I had four grandsons and a great grandson who served in the same unit I did, the 82nd Airborne. We do have young people now that stand up, volunteer and do their duty.

    “And I give them a big hand for that. Because, you know, we take for granted everything we have in this country. But if you’ve lost freedom like I did when I was a prisoner of war, you don’t realize what you’re given. We’re so blessed in this nation.”

    Langhrer described the awe-inspiring experience of seeing ships lined up for miles and miles on his June 1944 flight over the beaches of Normandy en route to Saint-Mere-Eglise on a mission to help free Europe and spare the world from Nazi Germany.

    “When I was in that plane and looked down at all those ships and boats – I thought you could walk on them back to the United States – I didn’t realize it at the time but 16 million men were taken out of the workforce to serve in the war, and the women filled those spots making ships and equipment. I was really amazed at what they had done and they were never given credit.”

    That was further evidence of the greatness of generation that rallied to a cause and then built the United States into a greater nation.

    Langhrer, who returned to Normandy this year for the 80th anniversary of D-Day, teared up more than once during his Saturday appearance in the media center, recalling the sacrifice he and others made in 1944, as well as before and after. He paused, describing the friend he held in his arms as he died from wounds suffered by a mortar that exploded just over Langhrer’s head.

    Henry Langrehr and his daughter, Kay Schneider, in Normandy, France, outside of a greenhouse that Langrehr jumped into during the events of D-Day 80 years ago. (Credit Kay Schneider)

    Henry Langrehr and his daughter, Kay Schneider, in Normandy, France, outside of a greenhouse that Langrehr jumped into during the events of D-Day 80 years ago. (Credit Kay Schneider)

    But he spoke with intense pride at what they created through that sacrifice

    “I love America, and I know my family loves America,” he said. “And all I can say is, I hope we all stand together firm enough, fondly enough, that outside influences don’t hurt our nation. We are seeing a lot of that now.

    “I’ll be 100 in November, and I saw a lot of things. But most of things I saw about America, even the hardest things, are good. You can overcome anything. We’ve been fortunate in this nation to never have a war fought in this country since the Civil War. The wars fought now are just terrible. The loss of life is just terrible.

    “I just hope we can learn to live in peace.”

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