Stellar service to our country deserves worthy honor to one of the last of our living heroes
Eddie Durham, a World War II veteran, turned 100-years-old on December 8, and he will be saluted in a centennial celebration befitting a hero. On Saturday, December 11, a birthday celebration honoring Mr. Durham will be held from 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. CST at Odyssey Venue, 19110 S. Ridgeland Ave., Terrace Entrance on West Side, Tinley Park, Illinois. The celebration will include a special tribute to Eddie Durham, who served in the United States Army Transportation Corps, Spearhead of Logistics, during World War II, from 1943 to 1945.
Dr. W. Douglas Rasmussen III, Veterans Commission Chairman of Tinley Park, will also speak, and there will be a Presentation of Colors by VFW Post 2791. Other local dignitaries are expected to be in attendance as well to salute this African American World War II veteran.
During the mid-20th century, a young sharecropper from the deep south of Greenville, Mississippi, Mr. Durham, who was accustomed to a mule and plow, learned how to drive a truck as he matriculated in the United States Armed Forces, becoming a “tech corporal” and machine gunner while serving in World War II. During his tenure in the United States Armed Forces, Mr. Durham fought in the Rome-Arno, North Apennines, and Po Valley campaigns.
Like most war veterans, Mr. Durham endured some scary situations while serving his country in the states and overseas. He drove a two-and-one-half-ton truck to transport personnel and equipment. He went in convoy and blackout through the mountains while stationed in Italy. “We drove in the mountains in the dark, and I saw some of my friends drive off the cliff,” he said. “It seemed like their trucks just disappeared on the road.”
Mr. Durham has journaled about his time in Italy during World War II, saying that because many of the enlisted men could not read, he would read to his illiterate comrades the personal letters that they received from loved ones.
The Crusader reached out to Mr. Durham to ask about his post-Army career and whether he had any nuggets of wisdom.
He told us that after he finished his stint in the military, he worked for 24 years for the General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD) machine shop for locomotive engines.
Of course, he talked about what he credits for his longevity. Praising the Lord and listening to and sometimes singing praise music while having his meals are things that he likes to do. “My radio is next to my plate. I enjoy different genres of Christian music and I join in online praise and worship at the Living Word Christian Center in Forest Park.”
The proud veteran added that serving the Lord through helping youth in the community to know about the Lord and living right before Him are things that are important to him. “I enjoy sitting on the porch laughing and talking with the neighborhood kids. Allowing them to dream about what they want to be when they grow up,” Mr. Durham said.
He urged parents to get involved with their children’s lives and show that you care about them, and give them something positive to participate in. His commitment to healthy neighborhoods and productive youth has been something Mr. Durham has practiced for decades. His daughter Gytone Glover said that during her youth, her father was a block club president, and along with her mother, Vernice Marie Durham, they would hold annual block club parties.
Because there were also gangs back in the 60s, he and his wife would also host neighborhood dance parties for the teenagers in partnership with the police district chief to ensure safety from gang activity. “Everyone would behave at those events, even known gang members who came to dance,” Glover said.
A man of many milestones, Mr. Durham was married to Vernice Marie Whigham Durham for 50 years prior to her death. They had five children, two of which are deceased, and a legacy of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The Crusader community wishes Mr. Eddie Durham a happy 100th birthday.