Sylvia (right) with her mom Idella and dad James Lee Lynch
Barely 18 years old, a new husband and soon to be father, James Lee was on his way to do battle
in a war he hardly understood. Fighting he knew about, but the politics of a world war were lost on this
young man. When his father was killed in a tragic accident when he was only 11, James Lee was forced
to leave school in the fourth grade to help support the family of five. He hauled wood in an old wagon
and did odd jobs around the neighborhood, but he was never able to return to school. Had he not been
drafted into World War II, he would have been destined to a life’s work in the local cotton mills, following
the footsteps of his mother and father.

James Lee arrived in England along with a shipload of young men, all fresh out of basic training….
training which would never prepare them for what lay ahead. On Day 9, he was dumped onto the shores
of Normandy where he would fight his way through towns and countryside for the next two years. He
would endure the cold frozen ground of France, sleep in the damp muddy foxholes of Belgium, and
occasionally, he would get to enjoy the kindness of friendly natives. So many details of the coming
months would be embossed in his memory, but would never be shared with family, friends, or any other
living person.

While friends were killed at his side, he managed to evade sniper fire, hand grenades, mortar shells,
and serious injury even though he earned a Purple Heart. He was also awarded the Bronze Star and
other medals of heroism for the European Theatre.

When James Lee returned to the United States in 1944, he was reunited with a bride he hardly knew
and a two year old daughter he had never seen. While the wife was happy to have her husband home,
the two year old was less than happy to have a stranger trying to wedge himself into her mother’s life.

Like most of the young men who returned in the mid-forties, James Lee wanted a home and family….
and of all necessities, a job. He took advantage of the GI Bill, enrolling in a technical school to get his
plumber’s license. Sitting at the table late at night, his wife would read and explain lesson by lesson,
until finally he obtained his Master Plumber’s License. He worked all his life to provide a good home for
his family and children.

Service taught James Lee one thing: you must abide by the rules. If he ever taught his children
anything, it was just that, with no questions asked……and no whining or complaining. This was a lesson
that would be passed from James Lee to my generation and on to the next.

I am proud to be a product of the greatest generation. I learned right from wrong at an early age. I
learned respect and patience, and I learned that being successful was not luck….it was the result of
hard work and it was expected. Anything less was not acceptable.
My Hero, My Dad
Sylvia Lynch Matthews
This writing won First Place State of Arkansas, First Place South Central Division,
Honorable Mention National Women's Issues - Daughters of the American Revolution