HONESDALE — On Friday night, Honesdale football fans paid tribute to two gentlemen who served their country during the Second World War.
Bernie Derrick and Jim Byrnes were feted at a special pre-game ceremony before the Hornets battled West Scranton.
This marked the Wayne Highlands School District's inaugural “Veterans Appreciation Night,” an event many hope will become an annual tradition during football season.
The guests of honor were escorted by Honesdale team captains to the midfield stripe where they participated in a ceremonial coin toss.
The men received a huge ovation from the crowd, then retired to the stands to take in an exciting contest.
Army Veteran, Bernie Derrick, served our country from 1944 to 1946.
Mr. Derrick followed family tradition and entered the Army through the draft at the age of 18.
He was the fifth boy from his family to be sent into World War II action. He completed his basic training in Macon, Georgia. Once he completed his basic training, he was shipped off to serve in the war.
He was stationed with the Americal Division in the Philippines at Leyte. Shortly after his arrival in Leyte, the war was declared over.
The next operation assigned to his unit was mop up operations on the Island of Latai. The purpose of this assignment was to search the mountains and countryside to determine if any more enemy existed and proved to be the only conflict Mr. Derrick was involved in.
Unfortunately for his division, as they were performing their duties, they came under enemy machine gun fire. Two members of his Unit were killed; a Sergeant, who was within two weeks of returning home and one of his friends that he entered the Army with him, perished in the gunfire.
Upon completion of mop up operations, his division was transferred to a hospital in Sendai, Japan. His division was disbanded when they reached Japan.
While in Japan, Mr. Derrick was promoted to rank of Corporal. Corporal Derrick was honorably discharged from the Army in 1946.
All five brothers returned home from war alive to join Mr. Derrick, another brother and two sisters. In total, seven brothers and two sisters rounded out the Derrick family.
During the war, Mr. Derrick had two brothers serving in the Army. One of which was wounded while serving in Germany; the other served in Africa and Italy during the war. His brother serving in Italy was the only brother that did not enter the military through the draft.
This brother served the military for 25 years. His third brother served in the Navy. While in the Navy, his brother was assigned to a submarine in the Atlantic Ocean during the war.
His brother stated, “If the Lord will get me through my service in the military and this war, I will become a minister.”
Upon being discharged from the Navy, his brother became a Minister. Mr. Derrick’s fourth brother served in the Air Force. He never left the United States during the war. He was stationed in Texas training other soldiers for war.
The final brother served in the Coast Guard. He did not serve during World War II.
Once Mr. Derrick returned home, he continued with his job at Weeks Lumberyard, located at the bottom of Terrace Street.
Mr. Derrick married his wife Ardis in 1949 and had four children, Ron, Patricia, Diane, and Denise. All are graduates of Honesdale High School. Mr. Derrick retired from his lumberyard job at the age of 65.
Mr. Jim Byrnes proudly followed in his father’s footsteps and served our country in the Army during World War II. His father, also named James Byrnes, served in the Army during World War I.
The younger Mr. Byrnes entered the Army through the draft. However, a year earlier, he tried to enlist in the Navy.
The Navy declined his enrollment because he wore glasses. The Army swore him in on October 4, 1944.
He served from October 4, 1944 to July 20, 1946.
Mr. Byrnes completed three months of his US Army training at Fort Blanding, Florida in the Infantry Replacement Division.
He was preparing to enter the war. During his training, he qualified as a sharp shooter. In the third month, Mr. Byrnes did not pass his vision test and was re-assigned to a Military Police Unit in Miami Beach, Florida. He served as a Private first class MP throughout the war.
During the war, Mr. Byrnes patrolled Miami, which was a respite for thousands of US military men before they returned to the war. While patrolling in Miami, Mr. Byrnes was involved in the transport of 40-50 German prisoners.
As the story was told to Mr. Byrnes and the other MPs, an American Warship entered a Miami Port. On the warship, were 40-50 German Prisoners from a German Submarine.
The Prisoners were picked up by this warship because the Captain of the submarine surrendered himself and his men to the warship. The German Captain explained that they were sent on a mission to ram their submarine into American Warships.
The Captain surrendered himself and his men to the Americans, rather than kill all of his men in the suicide mission. Mr. Byrnes and a few of his MP comrades were chosen to help transport the German Prisoners via railroad car from Miami Florida to Fort Myers, Virginia.
Mr. Byrnes continued to serve as an MP in the army until his discharge in 1946. He was honorably discharged and received the good conduct medal.
After being discharged from the Army, Mr. Byrnes got married and had seven children; three boys and four girls.