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WW II hero to get his wish



Posted on November 17, 2011 at 1:29 PM

During Veterans Day weekend, when we remember our vets, they remember their service to the country. Bob Newberry didn't spend a lot of time in the Navy - just under 2 years - but he was plenty busy. He saw action Okinawa and Iwo Jima.

Newberry leafed through a scrapbook containing pictures from World War II. He stopped and pointed at one of the most famous photos ever taken.

"That was the day of the famous flag raising on Iwo Jima."

The evening after that picture was taken -- that's when Newberry was wounded. He was the gun loader on a battle wagon.
"Kamikaze slipped under the radar in Iwo Jima," said Newberry, recalling the event from more than 66 years ago. "As he was diving for this battle wagon, suicide dive, he was shooting his 50 caliber machine guns."

Newberry was hit by seven pieces of shrapnel. One piece about the size of a fingernail is still in his leg. For his injuries, he was awarded a purple heart. He showed us a photo of his skipper giving him the award.

"This was the actual purple heart that was pinned upon me in (1945)," said Newberry, looking at a picture taken when he was 19 years old.

We talked to Newberry on Veterans Day, and that was just the beginning of what will be a big month. SMU invited him to attend the game against Navy -- which began with President Bush at midfield to flip the coin, and a flyover from the Navy's Strike Fighter Squadron 32.

Newberry's friend, former Marine Gene Blanton, nominated him to be a recipient of Jeremy Bloom's Wish of a Lifetime Award. That's a non-profit organization founded by the former University of Colorado wide receiver, and current sideline reporter, and it grants wishes to seniors.

"All the amazing things they did for us, I thought it was important for all of us to take a pause out of our lives and say Thank you," said Bloom. "And we're able to grant their lifelong wishes, so we're blessed to have our job."

This afternoon at Ford Stadium was a bonus. Newberry's wish is to visit the World War II monument in Washington, which he will do in December. He traveled half-way around the world and back before he was 20 years old, but he's never been to the nation's capital.

"It's a great story of a Dallas kid who really, the only time he left to go see the universe was at war," said Blanton, the ex-Marine. "He loves it, he's been talking to me. He's really pumped."

"His wish is so basic," said Bloom, whose grandmother inspired him to begin his foundation. "He wants to go back to Washington DC and see the monuments that were built in his honor. He hasn't been able to do that."
Newberry is a football fan, but he had never seen Navy play in person, so this was a first. And what made it even more special -- SMU honored him at halftime for his service to the country.

"Boy they made me feel like a hero," said Newberry, chuckling. "I tell you, it was something else."

Newberry's first game, was a good one, as he watched Navy get a win. Next month, Newberry will have his wish of a lifetime granted:  an all-expense paid trip to Washington DC to see the World War II memorial for the first time since fighting in the war nearly 70 years ago.

It's long overdue.