OZARK COUNTY, Mo — In spite of failing vision, scarred hands, and haunting memories more than 70 years old: James Rigger, at 92, wouldn’t trade a thing.
“It means everything to be free and to do what we are doing right now. There are so many guys that gave so much for us to be here right now,” said James Rigger, WW2 veteran.
Freedom to fly Old Glory outside his West Plains home is a sacrifice more than 3 generations deep for the Rigger family.
5 brothers choosing to follow Dad’s footsteps in the wake of December 7, 1941.
“I just thought that I could do something. I just wanted to join because dad was in the military. So I went down to Gainesville for the county seat. I threw up my 140lb chest like I was mean and tough.”
He was 17 at the time of his enlistment to the US Army. A “Rudy” in every way.
“This old Sergeant was there and he asked me, “Son, do you want in this Army?” and I said “Yes, I do.””
“Well he said I better go over to that water fountain and drink all the water I possibly could.”
“So I stepped up on the scales and he said ‘close enough…. Next!”
James Rigger would watch the Statue of Liberty disappear aboard the SS Queen Mary in July of 1944 as a part of the 319th Regiment of the 80th Infantry Division.
The Blue Ridgers, as they were called, would fill a crucial role in General George Patton’s 3rd Army.
Through 277 days of combat, James Rigger’s Division would storm Utah Beach, fight in the Battle of the Bulge, and liberate a concentration camp in a mountainous region of Austria.
To the best of his memory, only 12 of 200 from his initial company would survive.
“I wonder sometimes if I’ve done enough to make this as great of a country as it is. I feel at times that I fell short.”