Story of Larry Heron
                                                   Told By Milford Man

    The following story about Lawrence J. Heron of Hopedale, one of the most severely wounded men in
    World War II, was written by Arthur Cozzens of Milford, associate editor of the Disabled American
    Veterans Reporter, a monthly publication. Mr. Cozzens is past commander of the Milford D.A.V. post.
    His story is the first complete one of Mr. Heron’s life, before and after the war.

    On the night of December 7, 1945, Chapter No. 6 of Disabled American Veterans of Milford
    was officially dedicated, and the first officers were installed. The chapter was dedicated in
    the name of Lawrence J. Heron. The ceremonies were unique in that Lawrence J. Heron
    was in the audience.

    This chapter of disabled veterans had departed from the usual tradition of dedicating its
    chapter to a hero who had made the supreme sacrifice. What prompted this group of
    veterans to accord this honor to a living man? This can only be answered by relating the
    story of this man’s life.

    August 4, 1943, Lawrence J. Heron of Hopedale, was called to the service of his country
    which was then engaged in the mightiest conflict of arms in all recorded history, World War II.

    Four years previous, Larry Heron was graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Milford,
    Mass., one of the finest athletes to ever wear the colors of that school. Larry was a three-year
    letterman in both baseball and football. His performances in these two fields of sport graced
    many sport columns in the newspapers in this section of the country.

    So outstanding were his feats that many of the fine New England colleges sought his
    enrollment. Larry was unable to accept any of these fine opportunities. Because of the
    illness of his father, it was necessary for him to obtain employment to assist in the support
    of his family. At the time of his call to the service, he was employed at the Draper Corp. in
    Hopedale, in the capacity of night watchman.

    On his entrance into the service he was sent to Camp Brucker, Alabama, for his basic
    training. There he was assigned to Co. A of the 87th Chemical Battalion. At the conclusion of
    his training, he was promoted to corporal, later to sergeant and made a squad leader.

    Dawn of June 6, 1944, “D” Day, found Lawrence Heron with his unit aboard an LST making
    its way across the English Channel. The forces of democracy were about to stage their
    offensive against the Continent. The landing was made on Omaha Beach. History has
    recorded the glorious deeds that were wrought there that day.

    The American forces hammered their way up the coast of France. Just outside of Cherbourg,
    June 16, 1944, the enemy launched a determined counter-attack. The advancing Americans
    dug in to hold the costly miles which they had won. War in all its hellish fury was unloosed.

    There was Lawrence Heron in charge of an ammunition detail passing shells to the mortar
    squads which were supporting infantry with their fire. As the ammunition was being passed,
    amidst the horrible din of battle, a blinding explosion occurred. As the smoke cleared, ten
    men lay stricken; Larry Heron was one of them. He knew he had been hurt. He was
    conscious as medical aid was administered to him and when he was placed in an
    ambulance to be evacuated.

    It was from a hospital in England, with his head swathed in bandages, that Larry Heron
    realized the seriousness of his wounds. For the ammunition that he had been handling was
    white phosphorous, a caustic chemical agent, which, when imbedded into the flesh, burns,
    sears, and destroys with rapid malignancy. Larry was told by the attending physicians that it
    would be necessary to remove one of his eyes.

    It was not until his return to the United States at the Valley Forge hospital in Pennsylvania
    that Larry was to learn he would live in a world of darkness, because in that operation, both
    of his eyes were removed. But the loss of his sight was not the complete extent of his
    sacrifice, for the hideous phosphorous had consumed his face.

    What a bitter and tragic realization – indeed a grim realization to a young man just in his
    prime. The knowledge of such a great loss surely would challenge the will and spirit of even
    the most courageous of men. Gone are the dreams of a young man for a home, a family,
    and the opportunity and ability to work and attain such dreams. But no! For we have not
    reckoned with the man, Lawrence Heron, for he possessed within him the indominatable
    courage and the inflexible will to meet the great challenge that had been set before him, and
    he vowed with unrelenting determination to have the future he had planned.

    In the next two years, Lawrence Heron was to undergo an ordeal that again was a supreme
    test of one’s stamina and fortitude. For, in order to restore the features that had been so
    horribly mutilated, it was necessary to perform over thirty operations – thirty operations of
    skin grafts – the muscle and skin of his very own body. The restoration of Lawrence Heron’s
    features was an accomplishment outstanding in modern medical history.

    One might ask what a man does while undergoing such and ordeal. Well, for one think,
    Lawrence heron sang, for he had discovered from his bed of pain, that he had a fine, rich
    and pleasing voice. At first he used his voice as a therapy to relax himself, then others, too ,
    found his voice pleasing to listen to. What a monument of inspiration and well of
    encouragement he must have been to those men at the Valley Forge Hospital, many of
    whom had drawn the same tragic loss that was Lawrence Heron’s.

    From Valley Forge, Larry went to Avon, Connecticut, where the Army maintained a site for the
    rehabilitation of its blinded veterans. There Larry learned to type and read Braille and
    undertook the arts of leathercraft and woodworking. There, also, he improved and trained his
    voice.

    On December 21, 1945, Sgt. Heron put away the uniform in which he had served his country
    so nobly – the uniform for which he gave so much of himself.

    Today, the dreams and plans which were Lawrence J. Heron’s are wonderful realities, for he
    has a home, a wife, and is the proud father of two beautiful daughters. From his home he
    goes to work each day at the Draper Corp., where he is a gauger, and inspector of springs.
    Here the author must pause to give just praise to one who had a great part in the fulfillment
    of these dreams – his wife, the former Azelia Noferi of Hopedale, who married Larry a few
    short months before his entrance into the service. With a courage equal to that of her
    husband, she was by his side in those trying days, a beacon of light shining steadfastly in
    the darkness offering encouragement, faith and hope.

    Lawrence Heron is an active member of the community life of Hopedale and Milford, taking
    active interest and part in many activities of the veteran and fraternal organizations to which
    he belongs. He fulfills many engagements as church soloist. Nor has he forgotten the many
    veterans that are still in the hospitals, for he returns to the hospitals many times a year to
    entertain and inspire them.

    The story has been told, and now there can be no question as to why a group of veterans
    dedicated their organization in his name; for Lawrence J. Heron is a true hero – a living
    inspiration.

    Thus it was, with infinite pride, that Chapter 6 of Disabled American Veterans of Milford
    emblazoned on their colors the name of Lawrence J. Heron. Milford Daily News, March 9,
    1950.

    Larry passed away in 1995, and was followed in death by Azelia in 2000.

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    This poem was sent by Dana Cutter,
    who asked that it be added to this page.