To Meet a War Hero

Thursday morning, James Megellas sat all by his lonesome in front of the Fox News kiosk, located in Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport's Terminal C. Spread out before him were dozens of copies of his book, All the Way to Berlin, Megellas' autobiography published by Random House in 2003. My father bought a copy a couple of years back; turns out, signing books at the airport is something he will do on occasion, as Megellas, a Wisconsin native, lives in Colleyville. But as his Web site details, the man known as "Maggie" when he joined the 82d Airborne Division in 1943 recently visited troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. He says it was his first Christmas spent in a war zone since 1946.

Soldiers, who often visit Maggie when they pass through DFW, say they find his presence comforting, inspiring. After all, among the medals he displays upon his chest are the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts. He is 90, but more than just a survivor.

I was on my way to North Carolina to see my brother, a major in the Marine Corps bound for Iraq in coming days. Maggie and I spoke for a while about tonight's Marine Corps Ball near Camp Lejeune, as Megellas has attended "quite a few" over the past six decades. Megellas also wanted to talk about the differences between fighting a war in 1943 and fighting a war in 2008.

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"What's changed most," he said, "is the technology. What hasn't changed at all, not one bit, is the quality of our soldiers."

I shook his hand -- hell of a handshake too, all military might. Then it was time to board my plane, and Megellas was left alone again -- mostly, it turned out, because a celebrity was cruising the magazine rack and folks wanted to sneak a peek at ol' whasshisname. Turned out, it was Oliver Platt, who, far as I know, doesn't even have one Bronze Star. --Robert Wilonsky

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