“In high school I would always write down Pawpaw’s stories,” said Dana McCurdy, talking about Lymon H. Curvin, an American soldier with the L Company, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, who on September 17, 1944 participated in the liberation of the French city Luxueil-les-Baines from German occupation.
On Saturday, McCurdy will walk the same ground that her grandfather did 67 years ago.
Luxeuil-les-Baines will unveil a new memorial to Sergeant Harold O. Messerschmidt on September 17. Messer-schmidt, who received the Medal of Honor for his role in the liberation of the city, will have his name engraved alongside known soldiers who fought with him on the memorial.
One of those names will be Lymon H. Curvin.
From her home in Jacksonville Monday afternoon, one day before getting on a plane, McCurdy admitted nervous-ness about heading overseas for the first time in her life. The Alexandria High School graduate said she’s always had a fear of flying that’s kept her close to home, but she also couldn’t hide her excitement when she talked about going to France and finally meeting the people who she’d kept in contact with through email and phone because of her grandfather’s role in the war.
“This trip is going be amazing,” she said. “We’re a weepy family, so I can only imagine how this is going to go.”
Luxeuil-les-Baines regularly invites veterans of the war and their kin to honor the sacrifices made by American forces in the liberation of their country. While McCurdy said she knew her grandfather was a veteran, a Youtube video of a similar ceremony in Luxeuil-les-Baines from 2009 caught her by surprise earlier this year.
“I was watching this newscast, and it was all in French, and suddenly there’s my pawpaw on a plaque,” McCurdy said.
Since then, she has been in contact with Eric Vandroux, a historian and representative of the American Veterans for September Ceremonies in Luxeuil-les-Baines, who has exchanged information on the plaque and new monument in the city. McCurdy said her experience with talking to Vandroux and others has “changed her perception” on how she always thought the French felt about Americans.
“I had always heard they didn’t care for Americans,” McCurdy said. “Every time I talk with them you’d think they just got liberated, right now, that’s how grateful they are. They’re almost more patriotic than Americans.”
It’s a sentiment McCurdy said she shares, explaining how important her family history has been to her.
“I learned from Pawpaw, you always honor your veterans,” McCurdy said. “If it wasn’t for Pawpaw I wouldn’t be making this trip.”
The trip, however, is just a small part of the efforts McCurdy has made at uncovering her family history and retrac-ing the life of her grandfather who passed away in 2001. Five years ago McCurdy met Al Brown, a World War II veteran from Florida, who made McCurdy a book on the path he made through the war. Although he didn’t know Curvin personally, through the years McCurdy has kept in touch with “Grandpa” Brown, as she now calls him, and a few years ago he gave McCurdy his blue-and-white 3rd Infantry Division badge.
Since meeting Brown, McCurdy has made it something of a mission to track down other World War II veterans her grandfather might have known.
“It’s almost impossible to find a roster list,” McCurdy said about the difficulties she encounters while trying to con-tact families, mentioning she’ll go through “100 names before I even find one person.” “I was lucky enough to have written down some names Pawpaw told me,” she said.
One of those names led her to meeting Edward Drabczyk, a New York native who fought along with her father in World War II. McCurdy said she’s in contact with his family almost every day, exchanging letters and phone calls, and while they’ll be unable to attend the ceremony in France, she knows he’ll be asking for details the whole time.
And all the tidbits of her grandfather’s life she used to write down, Drabczyk recalls them like they were yesterday, McCurdy said.
“Pawpaw always told me about this sergeant who he said he was never worried about being killed, because he was so mean,” McCurdy said. “I asked Mr. Drabczyk about him and his son died laughing. He had heard the same sto-ries.”
Just like Brown, Drabczyk is now considered family, and is visiting McCurdy in Alabama in October.
“I’m honestly just as excited for that as I am about going to France,” McCurdy said. “Mr. Drabczyk kids me all the time and wants to know if I’m getting Company L back together. He wants to know if I’m a detective.”
The detective work doesn’t always lead to such happy reunions.
“There’s so many people that don’t know,” McCurdy said, explaining how many times she’s called families of World War II veterans who know little about their relative’s pasts. Earlier this year McCurdy said she talked to the daughter of a man who served alongside Curvin in the war.
“She told me that she wished I had called two weeks ago, because dad just passed away,” McCurdy said.
Where she got her history bug from is a mystery, McCurdy said, as no one in her immediate family seems to have the passion she does, although she thinks some of it might have to do with guilt.
“I feel like I didn’t honor Pawpaw enough when he was alive, so I really want to honor him now,” McCurdy said, recalling all the times she jotted down Curvin’s stories for school projects.
“The whole time he was telling me these things, I got it, I’m writing it down, but I didn’t get it,” McCurdy said. “I can still see him telling me it, saying ‘dang, I wish you got it.’”