Remembering a hero- Honoring Bernell Ward Evans
(Most of my Memorial Day weekends were spent at the foot of my great Uncle Bernell's Feet in his boyhood home in Parowan Utah (the home of William Leonard Evans) I always loved his visits, but it wasn't until years later that I knew of his heroism.
(The following was written by mother Janet Weaver about her uncle, my Uncle Bernell Evans)
My uncle, Bernell Evans who was born and raised in Parowan, Utah served in the United States Army during World War II. A few years ago I visited Normandy. While discussing the proposed trip, Uncle Bernell said, “Look for my footprints on the beach.”When I actually reached Normandy, I stared off across the peaceful waves of the ocean, took in the quiet beauty and tried to imagine the battle that took place there. The partially destroyed cement bunkers and large holes where bombs had landed remain as a reminder of the many soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom. The landscape has been left as it was following the war, but nature has taken its course and rich green grass has refurbished the terrain. It was only when standing on the beach, closing my eyes and listening that I heard the bombs and guns resounding in the howling wind. Later, as we humbly viewed the thousands of crosses honoring the US Soldiers who gave their lives for freedom at the Normandy Cemetery, I was doubly grateful that my uncle had returned home unscathed, and I am doubly proud of him for his service. I made up my mind to find out more about his service to his country. Our next visit revealed the following: Bernell talked about a summer day in 1944 when his outfit rolled through the streets of Paris, France with our American flag flying from buildings as thousands of people along streets waved flags and threw soldiers flowers and kisses. He apologetically expressed pride in that moment. Inducted into the service February 10, 1943 three days after his 20th birthday, Bernell finished basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and left for England. After spending some time in England, he was assigned to the 190th Field Artillery Battalion Command Post and Firing Center with duties as the VCO (vertical control operator) whose responsibility was setting sights on the guns to determine the length and position of the guns payload. These guns were 155 mm rifles capable of throwing a 95 lb projectile 12 to 15 miles down the road. After the invasion of France, Bernell’s group traveled 2,500 miles up and down the front line wherever they were needed to assist different units in their push eastward. That road took them up Omaha Beach, across France to Paris, then to Liege, Belgium, and Aachen Germany and into the Battle of the Bulge, down the line to Southern France, to a cow pasture near Volmunster France, across the Rhine River at Mainz German to Kassel and on to Leipzig; then into Czech and to Pelsin and Blatna where they connected with the Russian Army. Bernell reports that the four guns they had with them had fired 21,527 rounds and received much respect by the time the war was over. He had many experiences during this time, but one of his most memorable and perhaps most important experiences happened on Christmas Eve in 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. He describes it this way: “The Germans had launched their longest final effort to drive us back to the ocean. They were coming through our lines dressed in American uniforms. Germany’s air forces were flying overhead. I was on guard duty in a wooded area, and when a German plane came overhead, every gun in the Bulge opened fire. Then that voice—a voice I’d heard before—came to me and said, ‘Bernell, don’t move.’ I froze in place as the shrapnel came down around me like hail stones. Months later when I’d returned home, I learned that three important people in my life had spent a great deal of time on their knees praying for my safety that night: my father who was also my Bishop, my mother and my sister, Lucile.” My first memory of my Uncle Bernell (and I do remember it) was when the war ended and he came home. My mother was ironing in our home in Beaver. I was sitting doing whatever four year old girls do when I looked up to see a stranger in uniform pass our kitchen window. At that same moment, my mother dropped the iron, screamed in excitement and ran out the door. Her younger brother was home and he was unharmed. He was riding the Greyhound Bus from Salt Lake to Parowan and had left the bus during a brief stop to run up the street to see his sister before continuing home. As the years have passed, he has told us more about his experiences during the war, but he has always been modest in his reports. I had heard rumors that he had received the Bronze Star, but really didn’t know much about it until while going through some of my mom’s memorabilia discovered the following newspaper article. “Private First Class Bernell W. Evans, 39908809, 190th Field Artillery Battalion, United States Army. For heroic achievement in connection with military operations against an armed enemy on 17 March 1945, near Volmuster, France. During a night march, Private First Class Evans voluntarily entered an enemy minefield to render first aid to a comrade seriously wounded by an exploding mine. After calming and reassuring the wounded man, PFC. Evans walked out of the minefield and proceeded to the command post to summon help. This done, he returned toward the minefield but was dissuaded from reentering the field when it was determined that the wounded soldier was being removed by others. The heroic action of PFC Evans reflects great credit upon himself and upon the United States Army.” Bernell returned home, but in a very short time was back in France—this time as a missionary for the LDS Church. Following his mission, he graduated from College of Southern Utah (SUU) and taught in Elementary Schools in Parowan and South Salt Lake. He owns the family home in Parowan and returns there as often as he can. Bernell Evans is an outstanding example of “The Greatest Generation.”
To place a flag upon the casket of one so aged who fought at an age so young- that is America! How grateful I am to my Great Uncle Bernell for being a man of valor. He is my hero.
Bernell Ward Evans February 7, 1923- June 14, 2015