This handsome devil, holding the flag, is Joe Mann. He was a private first class in H company 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment. He joined the army at the age of 20 and received his basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington. Joe wanted to become a pilot, but an old football injury prevented that, so he decided to join the paratroopers.He was a Toccoa man! As part of G company of the Five-Oh-Sink, he knew what it was like to run Mount Currahee. He knew the bond that existed between that special bunch of fellas.
Because a sergeant didn’t like him very much though, he was transferred to H company 502nd pir, where he would serve for the remainder of the war. A problem with his back prevented him from jumping into Normany with his brothers, but he was there for Operation Market Garden.
As a scout for his platoon, he fought many one man battles during the first hours of the operation. In 2 days of hard fighting, he suffered 4 wounds. One bullet through each shoulder. One bullet through each arm. He also single-handedly destroyed an enemy position (an 88mm gun position with ammo dump), and fired on the enemy from an exposed position until he was too hurt to go on.
Joe went to the aid station and had both his arms bandaged to his body. But that didn’t stop Joe from returning to the front lines. That night, he insisted on going on guard duty, despite his injuries. The next morning, the Germans attacked the position that Joe and his buddies held in force. When a German hand grenade fell a few feet away from Joe, he didn’t hesitate. He couldn’t grab it to throw it away, so he threw himself on top of it, shouting “Grenade!” at his buddies to warn them. By doing so, he gave his life to save the lives of his buddies.
He is one of many whose story deserves to be told. So whenever I walk past the monument you see above, I think about him and I salute him for his bravery and selflessness. He was awarded the United States Medal of Honor for his actions above and beyond the call of duty. I think his biggest reward was that he was able to save the lives of his friends.