After surviving smothering a grenade with his body in World War II, a minor stroke last week wasn't going to keep Robert Maxwell down for long.
So there he was on Monday, the 92-year-old Medal of Honor recipient and Bend resident in faithful attendance at a dedication ceremony of a student veteran center named in his honor at Lane Community College.
Maxwell taught in LCC's auto mechanics program from 1966 until his retirement in 1986. But before that, Technician 5th Grade Maxwell, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, was a "wire man" who served in the Army from July 1942 to June 1945.
Maxwell's job was to set up phone lines so his battalion could keep in touch with the American command post. The cables they carried daily were too heavy to allow him and the other "wire men" to arm themselves with anything more than a .45-caliber pistol.
Even so, he defended himself and three other soldiers on Sept. 7, 1944, in Besanon, France, when they were attacked by German forces. A protective mesh-wire fence kept out all the grenades that the enemies launched toward them. All except for one.
Maxwell knew there wasn't time to throw the grenade back. Instead, he quickly threw himself - with only a blanket and no other protective gear - on top of the grenade to smother it, saving the lives of his comrades and keeping important communication lines open.
When he regained consciousness, Maxwell was still in danger as the enemy continued to approach. His platoon leader helped him to safety.
Maxwell came out of the ordeal with a partially blown-away right foot and an injured left arm and left temple.
For his "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty," Maxwell earned his Medal of Honor. He is one of only 12 living Medal of Honor recipients from World War II - and the only surviving one in Oregon.
"When I first heard I was nominated for the Medal of Honor,a... I thought back to the three guys who were with me in the same predicament," Maxwell recalled Monday.
"They only get slight mention. It's difficult for me to receive things like this. I'd much rather give than receive."
On Monday, Maxwell was given a different honor: the student veteran center at LCC named in his honor. Before teaching at LCC for 20 years, Maxwell taught at Central Oregon Community College in Bend, where he and his wife of 61 years, Beatrice, now live.
The couple and three of their four daughters came to LCC for Monday's dedication ceremony, which featured the presentation of the colors by members of Veterans of Foreign Wars' Springfield Post 3965; a speech by LCC president Mary Spilde; and comments and a video presentation by Maxwell's biographer and agent, Dick Tobiason.
When it was his turn to take to the stage, Maxwell thanked his friends, family and community for the honor they'd bestowed upon him. He told them he felt it was "not only my duty but privilege to serve my country." And he said he doesn't wear the Medal of Honor for any of his personal deeds, but for those other soldiers whose actions are not as well-known and for those who died in action.
As he spoke, Maxwell swayed a little before his wife came on stage to put her arm around him.
"She holds me up a lot," Maxwell said.
After his comments, attendees enjoyed cake in honor of Maxwell's 92nd birthday, which was Oct. 26. Maxwell shook hands, signed autographs and had pictures taken with audience members before visiting the complex.
Maxwell said having the center - a computer lab and lounge within Lane's Integration of Vets in Education, or LIVE, offices in the Center for Meeting and Learning - named after him felt "a little unnecessary."
"But I admire the student veteran center and what they do," Maxwell said. "If they want my name on it, that's OK. (Today), I want the emphasis to be on what LCC can do for student veterans, because veterans have done so much, not just for our country, (but for other countries, too)."
The Maxwell Student Veteran Center houses three desktop computers, two laptops and a printer, plus a couch. It serves as a place for veterans to do homework, study, hold club meetings and more, said Nancy Hart, associate dean of student affairs at LCC.
It's one of three rooms in the LIVE offices where veterans can also get information about Veterans Affairs educational benefits, employment help and more, Hart said. Those services used to be located in different areas throughout campus, but the new offices provide a "one-stop shop" for student veterans, Hart said.
The LIVE program started in 2009 with a grant from the American Council on Education and Wal-Mart, Hart said.
One of the grant's stipulations is that the program find a way to continue beyond the two years that the grant funding covers.
Although Monday marked the dedication, the lab and lounge have been open since fall term began in September. Once it was decided the center would be named after Maxwell, Hart and other LIVE workers reached out to him and learned he was just as interested in helping young veterans as they were.
"It's been a very exciting, positive experience getting to know him," Hart said.
"He has a kind of quiet graciousness, a quiet dignity. He asks great questions, and he's very interested in how the center will benefit students. We're really proud to be associated with him and delighted by the opportunity to share him and honor him."
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||Local News|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Nov 6, 2012|
|Previous Article:||Pact ends dispute over Sikh company.|
|Next Article:||EWEB linemen tackle Sandy's wrath.|