Reuben Law, American hero
November 13, 2004
Dressed sharply in a gray suit and black bolo tie, Reuben Law looks 30 years younger than he claims. He held his hand to his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance and listened with joy as 7-year-old violinists Ryan Vettel and Connor Novak played “America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee).”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, loud enough to be heard without a microphone.
“I guess I’ve seen it all; I’ve heard it all; I’ve done it all … I just can’t remember it all.”
Law, a 106-year-old veteran of WWI and WWII was honored at a Northern Nevada Lineage Society luncheon at the Thunder Valley Country Club on Saturday.
Mayor Ray Masayko awarded the longtime retired landscape architect a certificate of honor and said it was “a delight to have such a celebrity living in Carson City.”
One of about 200 remaining World War I veterans in the world, Law was being a little more than modest. He held his driver’s license up until a few years ago and voted in the 2004 election. He has a grasp of what’s going on that’s just as firm as his handshake.
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“I’m sure behind the president,” he said, going on to explain the difficulties of urban combat and the situation in Iraq. “It’s a very difficult war to win.”
He remembers both where he was when he heard Pearl Harbor was bombed and where he was on 9/11. Of the latter, Law says “It’s really quite amazing that something like that could ever happen. Nobody had witnessed such a thing, anywhere.”
Fittingly enough, Law was born during the war – the Spanish-American War of 1898. It was the same year George Gershwin, C.S. Lewis and Emmett Kelly were born. Mark Twain was alive and writing. It was the year Campbell’s Soup first began to use the iconic red and white design on their cans.
Law is a man whose profundity of life experience idles gently on the mood of a room while his presence seems somehow to invigorate it.
A first-hand witness to some of the most industrious as well as the most monstrous hours on the hands of the modern clock, Law served his country proudly.
On the Western Front in France with the Motor Transport Corps in WWI, Law saw eight months of action in what was then called “The War to End All Wars.” He remembers the booming sounds of the big artillery guns in the distance.
“More people died from the flu in that war than from fighting,” he says, remembering the 93 fellow soldiers that perished just on the boat trip overseas.
He also remembers the Armistice.
“I got hold of a big ambulance and went to town,” he says. “Everyone was just so happy, they were all in the street.” Law blushes just the slightest bit. “Every girl gave you a kiss,” he said.
Already in his 40s when Japan attacked the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, Law was at home in Minnesota eating when he heard the news. He didn’t think twice about volunteering. “I served on a patrol boat in the Mississippi River as part of the St. Paul Coast Guard Reserve,” he said. During the war the Guard checked the manifests of the freighters and kept an eye out for any possible U-boats.
Among a stack of plaques, Law received a special award from Paul Washeleski, Camp Commander of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
Law missed out on that war by a few decades, but his favorite grandfather served in command of a troop of black soldiers.
“My grandfather was very attentive to the needs of the black soldiers,” he said. “He was always very fair.” He paused, his mind going back deep into the 19th century. “I learned a lot from him,” he said.
Law was joined at lunch by his son, David, and daughter-in-law, Linda.
Contact reporter Peter Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1215.