Commending a Deerfield resident’s ‘undying love for our nation’

  • Attendees gather on Childs Cross Road in Deerfield to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden and dedicate a plaque to James A. Childs of Deerfield who was killed in action there. Master of Ceremonies Rachael Otto, of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hale-Clapp Post 3295, welcomes those gathered. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Violet Lavoie, granddaughter of James Childs’ niece, stretches for the mic as she recites the Pledge of Allegiance. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Attendees gather on Childs Cross Road in Deerfield to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden and dedicate a plaque to James A. Childs of Deerfield who was killed in action there. Chris Harris addresses those gathered. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Attendees gather on Childs Cross Road in Deerfield to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden and dedicate a plaque to James A. Childs of Deerfield, who was killed in action there. Veterans of Foreign Wars Hale-Clapp Post 3295 acted as color guard for the ceremony. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A new historical sign honoring Pfc. James A Childs was unveiled at the intersection of Childs Cross and Greenfield roads on Wednesday, the 75th anniversary of the day Childs was killed by sniper fire in eastern Holland while serving his country during World War II. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

  • Pfc. James A. “Jimmy” Childs CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/20/2019 12:51:15 PM

DEERFIELD — Although they never met, PFC James A. “Jimmy” Childs and Sgt. Maj. Kenneth “Rock” Merritt belonged to the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment at the same time in World War II.

Exactly 75 years after Childs was killed by sniper fire in eastern Holland, Merritt stood within 100 yards of the Deerfield home in which his fallen comrade grew up to speak of the tremendous American effort to save the world from tyranny and to pay tribute to those who died serving their country.

“I could live here,” Merritt said after he addressed a crowd of veterans and non-veterans. “The old homes and … the big trees and friendly people — I could live here.”

Merritt was in town Wednesday for a ceremony in honor of the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, an attempt by Allied forces to end World War II by Christmas 1944. The event, organized by Childs’ nephew Chris Harris, was held at Childs Cross Road, named for the Deerfield native killed on Sept. 18, 1944. A detailed historical marker dedicated to Childs was also unveiled as part of the ceremony.

Though Childs died on the second day of Operation Market Garden, he was among the first on the ground in Normandy, France, on D-Day — June 6, 1944 — parachuting behind enemy lines at night. He received a Bronze Star for heroic conduct in action the month before he was killed.

Childs last wrote to his mother on July 29, 1944, explaining he had been behind enemy lines for 13 days and was held prisoner by the Germans for three days before escaping.

“I will sure be glad when this war is over. I hope all the folks and you are well and don’t worry about me. I’ll get back there someday, I’m sure,” he wrote. “Lots of Love, Jim.”

Childs was one of 15 Deerfield residents who were killed during World War II. Harris said the ceremony was a way of memorializing the 70-80 million people who died as a result of the war, either due to battle, crimes against humanity or war-related hardships. Veterans in attendance included Darwin Hine, a fellow local paratrooper, who turns 101 on Sunday.

Merritt spoke of his own service and what was at stake in the war. He mentioned the Japanese made “the worst mistake of their lives” by attacking Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Congress declared war on Japan the next day.

“You had to be there to see what happened next. The whole 48 states of the United States of America came out wanting to join the armed forces. Men and women 65 and 75 years old tried to get in the armed forces,” Merritt said. “How do I know that? I was there, and I was trying to get in also.

“Our recruiting stations back in 1941 were not prepared to take such a rush,” he said, mentioning he recalls lines that circled recruiting stations three times.

Master of ceremonies Rachael Otto, of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hale-Clapp Post 3295 in South Deerfield, said all fallen veterans are examples of “undying love for our nation.”

“They are the embodiment of what keeps America free,” she said.

Otto said 1.35 million U.S. service members have died in war since the American Revolution.

“Clearly, freedom is not free,” she said. “And only Gold Star families know the deep sense of loss when their loved one makes the ultimate sacrifice for America.”




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