Theresa Marthey – Preston County News & Journal
AURORA — The bi-monthly breakfast of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans included a special celebration for one of their own who is getting ready to turn 101 years old.
World War II veteran and Aurora resident Sheridan Layman’s birthday isn’t until July 29, but that didn’t stop the crowd of friends and comrades from singing a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” at Donna Jean’s Family Restaurant in Aurora this past Wednesday morning.
The mild-mannered Layman, visibly moved, was more grateful for the service of those who attended than the celebration of his 101st birthday.
“I just want to thank everyone,” Layman said. “People like you have made my time worth while and have given me my 101 years.”
Thomas DeBerry, Aurora/Terra Alta Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 578 commander, said Layman is a very special man.
“He is well respected by all of us in the VFW, as we are proud of all our veterans who have served,” DeBerry said. “To be able to celebrate a 101st birthday with this gentleman is an honor.”
Layman said his family, friends and neighbors take care of him, and he is very grateful for that.
“All I have to do is pick up the phone and call someone if I need something,” Layman said. “They are always there to help me.”
He also has a son who lives in Tallahassee, Flordia, who he talks to every Sunday at 8 p.m.
“Charles and I just talk and talk on Sunday evenings,” Layman said. “He recently hurt himself and wants to come up for my birthday, but I told him he needs to stay home and recover.”
Layman said he lost his wife, Nina, in 2005 and a son, David, in 1954.
“You know I mow my own grass still,” Layman said. “It is something I enjoy, along with reading the Bible, my books and newspapers.”
Layman participated in the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this past week with four other veterans.
“I got to meet our Commander-in-Chief of the VFW John Shroud,” Layman said. “I had a lot of fun meeting other veterans, and West Virginia was well represented.”
Layman recalled some of his time in Belgium during WWII as part of the 117th Infantry Division, 30th Division, when Germany troops had broken through and penetrated about 30 miles into Allied territory.
“If it wasn’t for the my comrades in arms, I wouldn’t be here today,” Layman said. “When I am gone, I ask you to never forget the past and the friendships we have made. I salute you.”
Layman also talked about the number of those who died on the field of battle during WWII.
“It was so cold and we lost just as many men to the elements as in combat,” Layman said. “The neighbor boys I grew up with didn’t make it back. They were such nice boys.
“Sometimes there were so many men on the field, trucks would come in and they would put them in the back,” Layman remembered. “I want everyone to know we NEVER buried our own on enemy soil. We wouldn’t accept that. We took them back to ally soil.”
Layman remembers his days in the service with both pride and sorrow.
“I am proud I was able to serve my country,” Layman said. “But so many did not make it back home. I am blessed I am able to remember and share.”