APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Jerry Hein is a scientist, a limerist, and a Korean War veteran.
Jerry loves telling stories, but this one isn’t about him. It’s about his brother, Bob.
“In 1941, when I was an eight-year-old boy, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and WWII was on, we were all very frightened,” Jerry recalled. “Of the four boys, they were the first four of the family, and they all signed up right away. They wanted to join the service,” he said.
One of nine Hein kids, Bob joined the Marines at the start of WWII.
Jerry was just eight years old when Bob left, but he remembers it well.
“‘It was hell,’ that was his description. Almost every time someone asked him something he said, ‘It was hell.’ People asked him, ‘Were you scared?’ He’d say, ‘Yes I was scared,'” said Jerry.
That might be an understatement.
Bob was on the front lines at the Battle of Iwo Jima, when he was hit through the jaw with piercing bullets from a machine gun.
His jaw bone, tongue, teeth — all blown away.
“[Bob] was suffering terribly, he thought he was going to die, he wanted to die,” Jerry said.
But Bob didn’t die, he lived. And through Jerry, his story lives on today.
“‘The Story of a True American War Hero,’ is a book written by Jerry, to remember his brother Bob.
After Bob passed away, Jerry started compiling letters, newspaper clippings, and anything else he could gather to tell the heroic tale.
“I said, ‘Hey, this is exciting, it’s important, it’s wonderful.’ Because I wanted the world to see that we had a hero, we had a real hero in that war,” Jerry said.
Now the story lives on in the pages of the book, and in Jerry’s memories.
Jerry said that like himself, Bob wasn’t a prideful person, but he might have some thoughts if he were here today.
“I think he would say, ‘I don’t know why the hell you would write that stuff,’ he’d be the same as me. He was not a proud man, but he was happy for who he was and happy for what he did,” said Jerry.