Ed "Peewee" Mantz

Saturday, June 5, 2010

By BOB URBAN rurban@tnonline.com

I know Ed "Peewee" Mantz most of my life. I grew up just around the corner from him. He lived across the street from St. John's Lithuanian Catholic Church on Coaldale's Phillips Street. It's the same church where my grandfather, Joe Urban, lived next to when he was janitor of the parish following his coal mining days.

Peewee's a funny story teller, and a great guy to share a beer with at the Coaldale Gunny. His philosophy is, "drink 'em one at a time."

As long as I can remember, he drove a big Cadillac.

His son, Donnie, and a bunch of us, went on a memorable football trip to Charlottesville, Va. one year. I have the pictures to prove it.

So I thought I knew Peewee pretty well. Well, I didn't. I knew he was a World War II veteran. But I never knew he was a bonifide hero, not until I read TIMES NEWS reporter Chris Parker's riveting story about Mantz in last Friday's paper. Who would ever know, that back when he was an 18-year-old Army draftee, he found himself in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge? Three dead Nazi soldiers and 14 captives later, Peewee was having the coveted Silver Star pinned on his uniform by none other than Gen. George Patton himself.

Had I known this story earlier, I might have bought him a few drinks, to consume, of course "one at a time."

Peewee Mantz epitomizes a lot of our veterans, regardless of what war they served their country. Many return home reluctant to talk about their experiences. Others downplay their heroism. But here they are, just ordinary men and women, trying to scrape out a living, raise a family and hope that none of their children or grandchildren have to go through the horrors of war like they did.

I'm glad Peewee's story was told on the front page of this newspaper. It makes me proud to say I know him. Just a guy from the neighborhood who stood tall in the face of war.

Who said this country is running out of heroes? Just look around your neighborhood, you're likely to find one.

Source: http://archive.tnonline.com/2010/jun/05/thoughts