D-Day Veteran Remembers; Says Force Is Necessary
GREAT CACAPON, W.VA.
WORLD War II veteran Heber Hobday contemplates the question at his soggy outdoor workbench, where six inches of rain have fallen in five days. Finally: ``I think Bush is doing the right thing,'' sending US troops to the Middle East. ``There's a lot of them for and a lot against,'' adds his perky wife, Rella, holding a peach basket half-filled with peppers, cauliflower, and yellow gourds. ``But I think he's doing the right thing, too.'' Wrung out, her sopping apron, slacks, and sneakers would fill a five-gallon jug.
Neither Hobday welcomes the prospect of fighting: Both know the horrors of war.
``We had a man here last week, he was a prisoner two and a half years in Vietnam,'' says Rella. ``What they done to that poor boy was awful.''
The most searing portion of Hobday's three years in World War II: ``D-Day in Normandy.'' He won't elaborate: The intervening 46 years have not dulled the horrors. When he tries to talk about that day, when bodies carpeted coastal beaches as the Allies shot their way into German-occupied France, he still finds himself surrendering to tears. He has learned instead to clam up.
This is a man of toughness and courage. When he was a school maintenance chief, he and half a dozen bus drivers built a two-story school in their spare time one year in the 1970s. Not even a broken back kept him from completing it on time: He commuted to work prone and directed construction from a wheelchair.
The strife of World War II made the peace of West Virginia countryside incomparably sweet to Mr. Hobday. ``People say: `Aren't you bored?' We're not,'' he assures them. ``Besides, we have our animals,'' including three geese and 17 ducks on the indolent Cacapon River at the edge of the yard. ``They follow Rella around like dogs,'' he says with a chuckle.
Tomorrow is his 78th birthday: ``I'm taking him out to dinner,'' Rella offers. Where are they going? Fifteen miles away to one of Hancock's best-known restaurants, Hobday says, eyes brightening: ``Up to the Park'n'Dine.''