Shortly after Thetus McGee Lash died three years ago, her children were looking over memorabilia from her life.

The siblings had lost their father, Morris Lash, in 1986, so as they combed through their mother's items, they found many of his, as well.

That is when the Lauderdale County family started making surprising discoveries about his World War II military career.

"We knew he had the Purple Heart and we knew he was in D-Day, but that's all we knew," said Evone Lash Harvey, one of the daughters.

"We just knew pieces here and there that he told us all these years," added Charles Lash, one of the sons. "If we had just sat down and asked, 'Just tell us everything,' I know it troubled him, but he might have come through and told us more."

As they went through his military records, they discovered their father had been awarded three Bronze Stars. They found documents confirming those and other medals. However, due to a fire that occurred long ago, their father lost a many possessions, including those medals.

"He should have been proud of them, but those medals may just have been reminders of what he saw," Charles Lash said.

Since that time, the children have gone through the proper channels to have replacement medals sent to the family.

Happily married

Morris and Thetus Lash went on to live good lives. After the war, Morris Lash worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority until retirement. They had five children, including Harvey, Charles Lash, Robert Lash, Ruth Lash Darius and Dorinda Lash Bennett.

"He was a good guy," Harvey said of her father. "He did try to live as normal a life as possible when he returned."

It wasn't always that simple.

"He would get emotional on D-Day and he might talk about it, but other than that he never talked about it," Harvey said. "I think it was so painful. He was a kind person, and it was so hard to deal with such ugly stuff he saw over there."

"I know Dad saw a lot on D-Day," Charles Lash added. "On D-Day anniversaries, he would get troubled a lot of times. I remember one time we were at our uncle's house and a crop duster kept diving, and he got so agitated. I was about 15 and didn't understand why at the time."

Apparently, D-Day memories continued to haunt their father through life, even on his death bed, Charles Lash said.

"In his last days he was in intensive care and it's like he went back in time and he was calling his buddies' names," he said. "Mother recognized those names and said he was going back to the war."

During his years in the war, Morris Lash also was stationed at a prisoner of war camp, and later was an orderly in a military hospital that fell under attack. That is how he received the Purple Heart.

"He was on the stairwell and the window blew out and the glass stuck in his leg," Harvey said. "He was talking to a friend down at the bottom of the stairs and he started up the stairs. His friend was killed and he survived."

Being in the medical aspect of service during the war brought numerous gruesome duties that he never gave details about, his children said.

Still, his children wish they had asked more questions.

On this Veterans Day weekend, they are sending out a call to people who have loved ones who served in the military, particularly during wartime, to let those veterans know that you are interested in hearing about their experiences.

"I would advise them to sit down in a quiet room and have a heart-to-heart with them and find out what they went through, if they're willing to talk about it," Harvey said. "I don't know that Dad would have told us about these awards. There's a lot of things I want to ask him now that we've learned this. These questions come up, but the records are destroyed. We've gotten on the Internet and tried to browse, but we haven't been able to find anything else."

Charles Lash said he is disheartened that he never took that opportunity with his father.

"It's sad that we were so full of ourselves," he said. "I was 33 when he died. I just didn't ask many questions. I guess a lot of people are just like I am. We'd like him to have the recognition he deserves, but also encourage others to ask those questions. All it would have taken, really, is just sitting down and saying, 'Dad, tell us about your past in the military.'

"It's too late now." or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski


(1) comment

Gary Wylie

Unfortunately, very few WWII veterans (from the Greatest Generation) survive... I always knew my own father was a Navy radioman in the Pacific during the war, but I didn't know until after both he and my mom had passed, that he had served with the 1st Marine Expeditionary force, and went ashore with the first wave of Marines when they retook Bougainville from the japanese, and received commendation from the Marine commanding general for meritorious service and bravery during that initial landing. I too would have loved to have heard my dad's stories, but the men who fought in WWII were generally silent about their experiences after return.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.