We lost another member of the “greatest generation” this past week when Joseph Arch Middleton, formerly of Laddonia, passed away.
Through the years I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to meet and interview many people.
While I’ve been thankful to meet many professional athletes and many local residents who have went on to do some amazing things in their lives, my interview in June 2009 with Arch is by far the most memorable interview I’ve ever had.
I was writing a story on him after he had the opportunity, through the Central Missouri Honor Flight program, to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
I remember sitting with him in the back room for the interview. Knowing that many veterans choose not to share some of their war stories, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Mr. Middleton.
Then very candidly, Arch felt comfortable enough with me to talk about the day he was struck with three bullets on November 24, 1944 in France.
One hit his upper left arm, a second went through his left lung and a third went through his neck and left side of his face. You could still see the impression left in his face from the bullet.
He told me that after he was hit, he heard someone coming through a field of bodies checking for someone who was alive. With him not sure if it was the enemy, he played dead.
It was only when he knew it was safe that he made a motion that he was alive.
He was so detailed with me on his emotions of that day that my eyes were filling with tears as he talked.
After spending 10 months in six different hospitals, he received a medical discharge, a Purple Heart from the European Theater of Operations and for 65 years he suffered with the left side of his face being paralyzed.
When the interview was over and Arch was on his way home, I had to go to our back building in the old dark room and I just let out some tears.
I took some time to pray to God, thanking him for how he used Arch during his time of service. That interview shook me to the core. I couldn’t get it out of my mind for a few days.
Middleton graduated from Vandalia High School in 1943 and was a retired rural mail carrier in Laddonia.
I’m not sure I can make it to his service so I thought using my editorial was a good way to pay tribute to man who gave his all for his country.
Thank you Arch. I personally will never forget you and will share the brief memory I have of you for many for years to come.
(Note: Special condolences also go to the Lybarger family in the passing of Elsie. She will be missed.)