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

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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