Mar 21, 2013 12:41 AM by Jennifer Horbelt
PUEBLO, CO- On a battlefield, at 14-years-old. Herbert Pugh Jr. was one of the youngest soldiers to fight in World War II. Now, his family is working to make sure his experiences during the war, and after, aren't lost for future generations.
"I had to keep that a secret," Herbert Pugh said, in a taped interview with his son in 2005.
At 14 years old, he had a calling to serve his country. Today, it's unthinkable. At the height of World War II, Herbert Pugh Jr., then of Mansfield, LA, got away with it.
"My father was enthralled," his son, Kennedy Pugh, told News 5. "There were troops in his hometown that would come in, and do maneuvers."
"They were very poor, and they also saw these African American soldiers who were well dressed," Kennedy explained further. "They looked up to them, and so, my father wanted to be like them."
How did Pugh get away with it? Enlisting wasn't easy, and those signing up soldiers doubted he was of age, but things were hectic.
"There was so much activity going on about the war, that nobody had time to investigate me," Herbert said.
Kennedy began taping his father's story in 2005, soon after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, but Herbert shared those stories for most of Kennedy's life, even writing down his experiences.
"The doctor informed the officer that my father probably too young," Kennedy said, recalling one of his father's stories from the war. "But once the officer walked in, my father immediately saluted him, and the officer said, 'don't worry about him, that's the kind we need.'"
So Herbert went, despite his mother's objections.
"My mom said no, you can't do this. She cried and raised a storm," Herbert said, going on to describe what happened when they arrived in Europe. "Got off of the train, and got on some trucks, and we rode off to this area where they were processing the new troops. Issuing gas masks and a lot of different stuff."
Herbert desperately wanted to go, and talks highly of the experience. Still, for such a young person, it had lasting effects.
"As long as I can remember, my father always had some issues with PTSD," Kennedy said, remembering that his father had nightmares and certain phobias. "He dealt with it in the best way he knew how. A lot of the therapies that they do now with it, he kinda' did on his own."
Now this family project has become something much bigger, with a documentary in production entitled 'Kilroy and the Boy Soldier'. It's Herbert's tale, but also the story of today's soldiers facing PTSD.
"We need to start looking at it as a courageous fight," Kennedy said. "It is something that not only is affecting individuals, and individual families, but it affects a whole community."
Herbert Pugh Jr. faced that courageous fight as a young boy, conquered it as a man, and shares it today as a proud veteran of World War II.
On Saturday March 23rd, family and supporters are holding a kickoff event for 'Kilroy and the Boy Soldier'. They'll be honoring Herbert Pugh Jr., as well as raising funds to get the documentary finished. The event is taking place at the Kadoya Gallery in Pueblo, 119 Central Plaza, at 1st St. and Main St. It starts at 3pm, and lasts until 8pm. For more details, click here to see the Facebook Event Page.
If you'd like to contribute money to help fund the documentary, click here.
For more information on Herbert Pugh Jr.'s story and the documentary, click here to see the Facebook Fanpage his family has set up.