3 Paralyzed WWII Veterans to Participate in Memorial Dedication

Published: May 26, 2004  |  Source: pva.org
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WASHINGTON, May 27 /U.S. Newswire/ — Three veterans who saw combat in World War II-and whose battlefield injuries left them paralyzed for life-are traveling to the Nation’s Capital for the dedication of the World War II Memorial on Saturday, May 29.

John C. Martinez served in the 9th Air Force, based in France. His last mission occurred with less than one month remaining in the war, when his plane was downed over France. John survived the crash, but he was diagnosed with an L1-L5 (Lumbar) spinal cord injury. A decorated airman, John will receive his Purple Heart tomorrow morning (Friday, May 28) at the Memorial, 59 years after crash.

As a rifleman in the U.S. Army, Walter T. Rex was sent to the European Theater. He was part of the second wave that landed on the beaches at Normandy, France on D-Day. Walter’s duty involved stopping German tanks with rifle-launched munitions. A few weeks after hitting French soil, Walter was gravely injured during a last-ditch assault on the city of Cherbourg. He incurred a T1-T12 (Thoracic) injury from an exploding shell. Since then, Walter has married, has grandchildren and started and sold several small businesses. He is currently building homes in the southeast United States.

Leland Spore, who served in the U.S. Navy, was an ammunition loader for a gun battery on a ship. A comrade who did not see Leland unknowingly tossed an empty shell that struck him in the back of the head. Leland suffered injuries that resulted in a diagnosis of Quadriplegia.

“The dedication of the World War II Memorial represents our nation’s long-overdue expression of gratitude to the 16 million Americans who protected freedom around the world, at great personal sacrifice,” said Joseph L. Fox, Sr., PVA national president. “John, Walter and Leland are part of the Greatest Generation that founded the Paralyzed Veterans of America. We who followed them are eternally grateful for their sacrifices on the battlefield, and the service to their communities since then.”

Founded in 1946, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of individuals with spinal cord injury or disease. PVA is a dynamic, broad-based organization with more than 20,000 members in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.