LAWRENCE COUNTY, Pa. — As we celebrate our country’s birthday, grateful for the freedoms we have and thankful to the veterans, Channel 11 spoke to one man who recently just turned 100 years old in June. To this day, he carries around a piece of the war with him.
“I never regret the service,” said Donald Hepler.
100-year-old Donald Hepler of Lawrence County served in World War II. He mapped the route troops took in battle.
“I served directly under General Patton and I will say this, serving under him was a pleasure,” said Hepler.
To this day, more than 75 years after the war, Hepler carries a piece of it with him every day in his wallet. It’s a card known as Patton’s prayer.
The prayer was said just before the Battle of the Bulge in order to request a clear sky, which was granted.
“The trend of the battle changed when this got circulated to all the troops,” said Hepler.
Winning that battle allowed the U.S. to defeat Hitler and end the war. Hepler says he values this card and his time in the service. It taught him appreciation for his country, wife and family.
He left on leave just months after his first child was born. His wife Mary made sure the child knew his daddy.
“I had an 8x10 picture of him in his uniform, and every night, we would go in and I would say, ‘Kiss Daddy goodnight,’” Mary Hepler said. “When he got off train in Youngstown, he ran right to him and hugged him.”
Donald and Mary Hepler have been married 79 years this week. The pair went on to have five children, and the family has grown to include 72 descendants from grandchildren to great-great-grandchildren.
“God has just blessed us oodles and oodles of times,” said Mary.
As we celebrate the country’s birthday, the Heplers’ story remind us Independence Day is not just another day for a picnic or fireworks but a time to be grateful for the freedoms we have and the sacrifices people made to secure them.
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