Five Brothers Honored For Sacrifice, Service To United States
May 28, 2019, 9:47 AM | Updated: 9:50 am
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Through the tears, the emptiness, and heart aching loss, it often seems death finds a way of gently forcing the living to take pause and look back.
Just weeks ago on a cold and rainy April morning, the life of Staff Sergeant Bert Alexander, U-S Army, 145th Field Artillery Unit, Korean War, was remembered at the American Fork Cemetery in Utah County.
He was a son, a husband, a father and a veteran.
His son, Allen Alexander said, “I think he’s had a sense his life is ending.”
Just six days before his burial, the retired Army veteran was scheduled to sit down and talk with KSL TV about his life and service. When crews arrived for the interview, Bert Alexander was asleep.
His son tried to wake him up.
“Can you wake up dad?” said Allen, “just for a few minutes?”
The interview never happened, though, as Bert passed less than 48 hours later.
Chances are, even if he was physically able to talk, we wouldn’t have heard much about his service in Korea. Bert would have probably told stories of his widowed mother and bragged on his four big brothers, who all served in WWII before him.
“He always just worshiped his brothers,” said Allen, “and he loved these brothers.”
Their mother, Mary Etta Alexander, was thousands of miles away, with little communication with her sons and only headlines to tell the story.
“She was widowed with a family,” said grandson Cal Alexander. “She worked two jobs, she was devoted to her family, I’m sure it was hell for her.”
Over the years, government documents and family letters have been tracked down. One of those letters, from Mary Etta to her oldest son, Bill, is especially telling of what she was going through.
In the letter she writes: “Yes son, it is hell to be away from your family. I know a little how you feel. It nearly killed me when all of my boys left me. And then to get word of Gale.”
Gale was son No. 3. He was a Staff Sergeant Platoon Leader in the Army’s 15th Infantry Regiment, which was the most decorated combat unit of WWII.
He was injured on the battlefield in Italy.
A government document, from an eye witness spells out Gale’s heroics.
“I am Norbert Wisinski, Second Lieutenant, 0-1318357, Executive Officer, Company I, in the Fifteenth Infantry Regiment, in which capacity I witnessed the following action:
On 4 February 1944, at 1400 hours, our company was attacking southwest of Cisterna di Littoria, Italy, but we were held up by an enemy machine gun on the commanding ground to our front. The fire was coming from a well fortified position from which the Germans had excellent observation and grazing fire. Two men had been killed and six wounded in the assault platoon.
When he saw the situation, Staff Sergeant GALE ALEXANDER, 39676152, a squad leader who was acting as platoon leader, left the wadi in which he had taken cover, and ran alone toward the right of the enemy position in an attempt to flank it. Machine gun bullets from this gun and four or five other machine guns were firing into the area, kicking up the dirt on both sides of him, but, inspite of this and the artillery and mortar shells that were falling in the area, he ran boldly on unable to use cover.
When he had run about a hundred yards, he suddenly came upon two Germans, evidently security for the gun position. He quickly fired with his Thompson Sub Machin Gun, killing one instantly and wounding the other.
He then advanced some thirty yards more in short bounds and threw two hand grenades into the machine gun emplacement, and, yelling for the forward platoon to follow, he charged the last twenty yards in to the position and knocked the gun out.
Staff Sergeant Alexander’s fearless action under direct machine gun fire for twenty minutes, enabled our company to obtain the objective, caused the deaths of three Germans, and prevented any further casualties to our own men.
I was an eyewitness to the above facts.”
Gale was shot and injured, but he returned to the battlefield shortly after.
His mother was eventually notified by the military of the injury, allowing her to send, in no more than 5 words, a “radio message of cheer.”
Just 5 words: “You’re in my thoughts always.” Love, Mother.
The heroics of that day earned Gale a Purple Heart and, one of the highest decorations for valor in combat, the Silver Star.
“Gale was 25 years old at the time,” said nephew Cal, “and basically left it all on the battlefield.”
Gale was lucky to be alive.
And on June 9, 1944, just after D-day, his brother Jack took pen to paper and wrote Gale a letter he had no idea would be the last.
It read in part:
“I’ve been reading about the good work you have all been doing over there. I’ve got a good idea of your job when you are in combat and I know how rough it is. Here’s wishing you all the luck in the world and I’m hoping that we will be seeing each other before long. -Jack”
Exactly two months later, that very letter was returned. Gale never got a chance to read it. He was killed on the battlefield, weeks before Jack ever wrote it.
Seventy-five years to the day, in a small cemetery in Vernal, Gale and his brothers have not been forgotten.
In a ceremony unveiling a newly-erected memorial, a direct descendant of each brother shared stories of remembrance.
Bert is not forgotten.
“He was a true protector and a true provider, and he taught us to honor and respect women,” his son Allen said.
Bill is not forgotten.
“He was proud to have served his country,” his daughter Bonnie said. “When a storm came, he guided us just enough so we would learn to be strong and tough.”
Bonner is not forgotten.
“Uncle Bonner is full of tales about the war, and tells you things your mom would wish he wouldn’t,” said his niece, Gaila Fossum. “Uncle Bonner is a hero.”
Jack is not forgotten.
“He was the last of the four brothers to join the fight in WWll,” said granddaughter Kallie Andrus, “and also the last to return home.”
The posterity of the Alexander family shared stories, payed tribute, and finally dedicated a monument that now firmly stands, quietly reminding those who pass by not just to remember. On this and every Memorial Day hereafter, it will gently forcing the living to look back and honor the sacrifices of a mother and her five sons.
“Their example, their sacrifice, shaped all of us,” said Cal Alexander, summing it up perfectly. “Our job today is to make sure they’re not forgotten.”