Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pfc. Sid Phillips - A Determined 1942 Confederate

Allen and Dr. Phillips
We are sometimes fortunate to meet a real American hero.  My wife and I had that privilege on Saturday morning May 18, 2013 near Mobile, AL. We spent several hours with Dr. Sid Phillips and his delightful sister, Katherine Singer, at his antique shop.  Dr. Phillips may be better known as Pfc. Phillips of the First Marine Regiment, First Marine Division and lifelong friend of Eugene Sledge.  Sid and Eugene were two of the principle characters in HBO's miniseries, The Pacific.  Dr. Phillips signed a copy of his book, You'll Be Sor-ree, about his experiences fighting the Japanese in World War II.

I was respectful of his experiences and refrained from dredging up memories of the horrors of the Pacific Theater.  I mentioned that I was interested in the Civil War, and we began a wonderful conversation about the war and Dr. Phillips' interest in history.  Dr. Phillips left briefly and returned with several page of photographs of himself and Pfc. W. O. Brown.  He titled the collection "Two Determined 1942 Confederates." Phillips and Brown were stationed at what is now Camp Lejeune and used "two thumbs for transportation" to visit Civil War sites at Bentonville and Fort Fisher. On the beach at Fort Fisher, the soldiers found minie balls, flat pewter buttons, and round balls.  The 17-year olds took turns taking pictures of each other next to battlefield markers and earthworks. Dr. Phillips told how he and Eugene used to visit the Spanish Fort battlefield, north of Mobile, to hunt for relics. The battlefield is gone, but Phillips' boyhood memories are undisturbed.

This introduction led to stories about their childhood.  My favorite, among the many told, was Katherine's recollection of sitting on a porch surrounded by men. She said the men would spit into a spittoon every time they said "Yankee." Mrs. Singer said it was not until she was an adult, that she realized that you didn't spit every time you said "Yankee." 

Dr. Phillips Signing his Book
I must admit to being an awestruck kid the entire time of our visit and in a daze that lasted well into the afternoon.  Visions from the Tom Hanks drama crept into my mind, and I marveled at Dr. Phillips' war heroics and post-war triumphs.  Driven by his wartime experiences, he decided  to become a doctor, worked his way through medical school supported by his wife, and became a successful physician.  

I consider myself  extremely fortunate to have met a real hero, and I wished others could have shared my experience.  My thought quickly faded, when I realized that we all have the opportunity to meet heroes this Memorial Day weekend.  Take time to thank them for their service and sacrifice.

Dr. Phillips signed the book "To Allen an American patriot. 2nd Timothy 1:7. Pfc. Sid Phillips." The verse he quoted reads: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." I'm not sure I deserve the honor, but I know that Pfc. Sid Phillips does.

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