Friday, May 01, 2015

TOP STORY >> Combat medic presented awards

Leader staff writer

Second World War veteran James “Tinker” Siler, 90, of Bradford was presented with the Bronze Star and the Combat Medical Badge during a ceremony on Wednesday at the White County Courthouse. Siler was a combat medic in the Battle of the Bulge.

Siler was awarded the medals 70 years ago but never received them and time moved on.

Later this year, Siler will be presented with the French Knight of Legion of Honor Medal at the French Embassy in Dallas.

“It is a great deal. I feel honored,” Siler said.

White County Judge Michael Lincoln proclaimed the day as “Tinker” Siler Day.

Siler was an 18-year-old high school senior when he went off to war in 1942.

He was in Gen. George Patton’s Third Army in three major campaigns: The Ardennes, The Rhineland and Central Europe.

On the combat medic team, Siler gave emergency first aid to severely injured soldiers on the front lines, bandaging them up to stop the bleeding, to get them to the hospitals. Some died in his arms.

“We helped to get them out of harm. We got them back to the doctors as quick as we could. It was heart wrenching,” Siler said.

He was in the second wave at the Battle of the Bulge. For 10 days straight, Siler was on the battlefield.

“Snow was knee deep. Guys froze to death in the trenches. The weather was as bad as the enemy. We weren’t dressed for it. We had short coats,” he recalled.

Siler endured frostbite from his knees down to his feet. They are 50 percent numb now. During the war, he got pneumonia and was taken to a Catholic orphanage for hospitalization.

Siler is a lifelong resident of Bradford. He and his wife, Marilyn, were married for 50 years until her passing 10 years ago. They had two daughters, Lisa and Cindy, and a son, Greg.

Siler served on the Bradford City Council for 15 years. He was also a rural mail carrier for 22 years and sold real estate. His career and hobby choices were far from the battlefield and the scenes he experienced.

“I didn’t want to be a nurse. I saw so much horrible stuff. You’d see it again in an emergency room, and I didn’t want to do it anymore,” Siler said.

“Oceans of tears were shed on both sides of the Atlantic and in German houses and Japanese houses. They had parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, too. War is a bad business,” Siler said.

He still has a giving heart. “I love to garden. I eat a little and give some away to people who need it,” Siler said.

According to his son, Greg, Siler never spoke about the war until recently, when he went to the VA hospital for medical care. Siler suffers from tinnitus and is nearly deaf because of his time in the war. It was then that work began to get him his medals.