Network makes Father's Day easier for war orphans
of the American World War II Orphans Network
gather at the dedication ceremony for
the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford,
Va. L-R, Ed Peters, Hamilton, Va.; Ann
Bennett Mix, Fredericksburg, Va.; Donna
Allen, Falling Waters, W.Va.;
and Leonard Rorrer Jr., Floyd, Va. Mix
is the founder of the network.
(Photo Copyright © 2001-2004 by Vincent
By Vincent Z. Whaley
City Press Staff Writer
(Published Sunday, June 17, 2001)
FREDERICKSBURG, Va. If there is one holiday
that feels lonelier than others for Ann Bennett
Mix, it's Father's Day. Mix never had a chance
to get to know her father.
He was killed in World War II.
Serving in the 87th Mountain Infantry, 10th Mountain
Division, in Italy, Mix's father, Sydney Worthington
Bennett, was sent to the front line as a replacement.
On April 19, 1945 Bennett's third day of
combat a sniper shot and killed him near
To help fill the void in her life and the lives
of others who lost their fathers during the war,
Mix founded the American World War II Orphans
Network in 1991.
"At war's end, 16 million had served, 405,399
had died and 78,773 were missing in action,"
she said. "More than 180,000 people lost
their fathers during the war. Our purpose is to
support American orphans of World War II and to
honor the memory of our fathers. This is a big
deal to us because we lost our daddies."
While attending the June 6 dedication ceremony
for the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Mix
and other members of AWON recalled their fathers'
"Dad jumped at 1:30
a.m. behind enemy lines on D-Day, and they were
scattered everywhere," she said. "He
was wounded two days later on June 8 and died
on June 12 in a field hospital that was set up
in a big chateau near Carentan, France."
Allen and her husband, Dick, from Falling
Waters, W.Va., at the National D-Day Memorial.
Donna Allen is holding a piece of a parachute
that a German resident gave her when she
visited Carentan, France, in 1996. Allen's
father was a paratrooper who died from
wounds received in action near Carentan
in World War II. (Photo Copyright ©
2001-2004 by Vincent Z. Whaley)
In 1996, Allen traveled to France and located
her father's grave at the Normandy American Cemetery
and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer above Omaha
Beach. During that trip, a former German soldier
gave Allen a gift that will always remain close
to her heart.
"The residents of Carentan had a ceremony
and awarded me the Medal of Carentan due to my
father's service during the war," she said.
"Following the ceremony, I began talking
to two Germans. One told me he was a doctor on
D-Day and cared for more than 400 wounded German
and American soldiers. He told me he just wanted
me to know that he did care for Americans, too.
"The other German told me he found something
shortly after D-Day and had kept it all of these
years, but never knew who to give it to. He handed
me an intact parachute used by the Allied forces
during the invasion and told me he wanted me to
have it since my father was a paratrooper."
Sharing their fathers' experiences and searching
for information about their fathers during the
war are the primary goals of AWON, Mix said.
"AWON members have found their lives and
relationships to their fathers transformed by
doing research following guidelines we provide
for locating records and resources," Mix
said. "Additionally, many have applied for
benefits they previously had not known were available."
The 50th anniversary of the end of World War II
in 1995 saw many war orphans reaching middle age.
Mix said she feels war orphans should acknowledge
the "far-reaching impact the loss of our
fathers has had on our lives."
"The sacrifice did not end for us in 1945,
as we have lived with unanswered questions and
unresolved grief," she said. "Now we
are asking, 'What were the circumstances of my
father's death? What kind of man was he?' "
For more information on AWON, send inquiries to
P.O. Box 1922, Fredericksburg, VA 22402 or e-mail
Mix at email@example.com.
On the Net: www.awon.org,
here for full story on the June 6, 2001, National
D-Day Memorial Dedication Ceremony
here for more photos from the June 6, 2001, National
D-Day Memorial Dedication Ceremony
Photographs Copyright © 2001-2004 by
Vincent Z. Whaley and the Johnson
204 W. Main St., Johnson City, Tennessee 37605,
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