NATCHITOCHES – Imagine telling your mother that, at age 17, you had decided to leave high school with a handful of friends and cousins to join the Army and head off to war.
Allen Solomon, now age 91, did just that in 1944.
It was not long after when Allen, now a young private, found himself leaning across the railing of a Navy ship, seasick and headed to the Philippines. The Battle of Mindanao was fought from March to August 1945, and it was here that the young private’s military career ended with a single gunshot wound in his right hand. He and other members of his unit were low crawling to an L-shaped, 8-foot deep, Japanese-manned trench. Bullets strafed the ground in front of him and threw dirt in his eyes. He took his hand off his weapon to clear his eyes. The second it returned to the rifle, a bullet pierced his hand and exited through his wrist. Mr. Solomon still recalls the sound of anti-aircraft gunfire surrounding his medivac flight off the island.
Solomon was recognized during the Feb. 14 basketball game at Northwestern State, continuing the tradition of recognizing military veterans during athletic events.
Always a cowboy at heart, Solomon returned to Louisiana and to building the Red River Ranch. Eventually, his farmland spread from the Red River to the Cane River. He still tends cattle in the hundreds along with his family, who has always stayed close by. Although the numerous surgeries saved his hand, it never fully recovered. He simply “learned to do without it, and that included bronc and bull riding and even a little calf roping,” he grinned.
Solomon’s daughter, Kathleen, now keeps her father’s World War II jacket along with his Purple Heart at her home on the ranch. They are much too precious to her and her siblings to be tucked away in a closet and forgotten.