Veteran’s Voices: WWII Veteran’s Love for Faith, Country Intertwine

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OZARK COUNTY, Mo. — James Rigger, 92, is a World War 2 Purple Heart recipient from Ozark County.

Rigger’s battle-worn bloodline is intertwined with a Bible more than a century old.

His faith is as unwavering as his love for country.

“There’s a lot of stories in there. I think about so many guys that gave so much.”

In spite of failing vision, scarred hands, and haunting memories more than 70 years old: Rigger wouldn’t trade a thing.

“It means everything to be free and to do what we are doing right now,” Rigger said. “There are so many guys that gave so much for us to be here right now.”

Freedom to fly Old Glory outside his West Plains home is a sacrifice of more than three generations deep for the Rigger family.

Five brothers choosing to follow dad’s footsteps in the wake of Dec. 7, 1941.

“I just thought that I could do something,” Rigger said. 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 U.S. Army. A “Rudy” in every way.  

“This old Sargeant was there and he asked me, ‘Son, do you want in this Army?'” and I said ‘Yes, I do,'” Rigger said. “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!”

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, 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,” Rigger said.

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