Let Him Go

The following story was picked up by Chaplain Arnold G . Taylor, former 99th Division MP, at a 99th Division convention.

We are in July 2010. Kenneth Myers, former member of HQ Company 394th Infantry, is holding the hand of George Serkedakis, of Service Company,  394th infantry. Serkedakis, « Serkie » for his buddies, is hospitalized in a VA hospital near Washington, DC. Both men recalled the time during the Battle of the Bulge when Ken likewise held out a comforting hand to Serkie who had been bit by shrapnel.

Ken was a Medic. On that fateful day, he was driving his deuce-and-a-half medic truck  through the cold and mist when he and the soldiers with him saw a jeep that had been hit, its occupants writhing beside it. It was December 18, 1944.
He and the soldiers hoisted the wounded onto the truck but there was one body that was not moving. The soldier was laying face down in the ditch. It was Serkie. When Ken rolled him over and scrapped away the mud, he found that, among other things, Serkie’s brain was lying over his right eye.
« Let him go! » the other soldiers yelled. « … In a few minutes he’ll be frozen stiff and he wont know what hit him. »
« But he’s still breathing » Ken bellowed out. « Help me load him into the truck! » They did.

At the aid station, the surgeon shouted, « Let him go! We have too many that we can fix and get back on the line! We’re under attack, you know! »
« But he’s still breathing«  Ken bellowed back. He continued to argue, to no avail. So he took Serkie across the street, to the Belgian house in which he was billeted. Ken laid him in a bed, and day by day, with his medical knowledge, oozed the brain back inside Serkie’s head, and fed him with sugar cubes. All of the time, Serkie remained unconscious.

A week later, Ken’s outfit had to move so he carefully put Serkie in a truck and against orders carried him to a rear echelon hospital and , yes, bellowed, « Fix him! ».

Ken moved on and on until war was over and he returned to his home in Takoma Park, Maryland to run a successful plumbing business.

One day, a lady nearby asked Ken if he could come to her house and fix her fireplace, Ken obliged. As he completed the task, he noticed a picture on the mantel « Is that George Serkedakis? » he asked.

« Yes, he’s my brother. He lives in California, but he’ll be back soon » she replied. Ken told her the story of his rescue and asked her to let him know when Serkie returned.

Years went by. No Word. Then one day when Ken was in Washington, DC, to get therapy on his legs that were frozen twice during the Battle of the Bulge. He saw a man in a cab next to him that looked like George Serkedakis.
« Is that you, Serkie? » he yelled over the noise of the busy street. The answer was yes. Ken shouted to pull over to talk and they talked for about four hours. It turned out that Serkie was running a restaurant in the area and living a mere five minutes from Ken in the Takoma Park area!

Further, he revealed to Ken that even though he was unconscious during those first days after the shell hit, he heard the words, « Let him go! » every time!

Over the years they have kept in touch, although Serkie’s health began to fail. In spite of weakness, at 91 years of age, Serkie was persuaded to take part in the 2008 National Memorial Day Parade in Washington DC to hear the crowds shouting « Thank You! »

He rode in a genuine WWII Army jeep with Ken and Jack Rue of Arlington, Virginia, who had been in the same unit with Serkie during the war.

Two years later, Ken was again at Serkie’s bedside while he was still breathing.

However, on July 17, 2010, Serkie breathed his last and neither Ken not the finest doctors could do anything to save him. Ken had to let him go.

May he rest in peace, and may Ken find solace in the fact that Serkie had many years old a happy marriage and successful business thanks to the fact that Ken listened to the man breathing when nobody else would.

Kenneth Myers passed away on December 21, 2011.