Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 8

FROM THE EDITOR

By KURT RHEINHEIMER

REMEMBERING AUDIE MURPHY

A Monument that
Continues to Grow
On Brush Mountain west of Roanoke, Virginia, people place rocks
and leave pieces of their lives in honor of a World War II hero and actor.

I

t's a hike my wife and I do at least once a year-
the 3.8 miles of Appalachian Trail from either direction-to the Audie Murphy Monument on Brush
Mountain, not far west of Roanoke, Virginia.
It's a walk that provides rewards commensurate
with the distance and the climb. The bench at the
overlook westward to the view of Sinking Creek
Mountain is a wonderful spot for lunch. And even more
impressive is the ever-accreting attention to the monument for the World War II hero who received every combat award possible from the U.S. Army before becoming,
for the last 20 years of his life, an actor who appeared in
some 40 features films and one TV series.
There is no real connection between Audie Murphy
and our part of the world beyond his death, in 1971 at
age 45, when he was a passenger in a twin-engine Aero
Commander 680 being piloted into rain, fog and zero visibility, and that crashed into Brush Mountain. The pilot
and four other passengers were also killed.
But it is a connection that elegantly and extravagantly
displays reverant remembrance of a man nearly 50 years
after his death. The cairns and enclosure made of flat
stones, the dog tags and messages, the decals and notes
and little flags that surround the monument are organic
and ongoing salutes to a man whose accomplishments
were the equal of most anyone of his revered generation.
Audie Leon Murphy, born in Texas in 1925 and ultimately buried in Arlington National Cemetery, began his
military career soon after Pearl Harbor in 1941, when his
older sister helped him falsify his age. The Army, Navy
and Marine Corps initially all turned him away for being
underweight. The Army finally took the 5'5", 112-pound
Murphy in 1942, and the rest is glorious military history,
highlighted, perhaps, by his January, 1945 heroism in
the Vosges Mountains of France, when, despite wounds
to both legs, he mounted an abandoned tank destroyer

8

BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

and killed or wounded 50
enemy forces and then re- Audie Murphy as Tom
Smith from the TV program
turned to his men to lead
"Whispering Smith."
them in repelling the Ger- TOP: The Murphy
mans. Murphy was the re- monument atop Virginia's
cipient of many awards, in- Brush Mountain.
cluding the Medal of Honor,
and was promoted to first lieutenant the next month.
The career that saw him receive every U.S. military
award for valor available was not without its costs. Murphy, whose father deserted the family of 12 children when
Murphy was a youngster, who dropped out of school in
the fifth grade, who lost his mother at age 16, was prone
to mood swings even as a child. And as a self-confessed
post-war victim of "shell shock" (the term then in use for
what is now identified as post traumatic stress disorder),
he suffered from nightmares, violent episodes, addictions
to sleeping pills and gambling; and slept with a loaded
pistol under his pillow.
Nonetheless, under the early tutelage of actor/producer James Cagney, Murphy received the training in acting,
voice and dance that would help get him his first bit film
roles in 1948, and lead to a seven-year contract with Universal Studios. Most of his roles from that contract and
beyond were in Westerns. In his last film, 1969's "A Time
for Dying," he starred as Jesse James.
The end of the rich and accomplished life of Audie
Murphy-he was also a songwriter and breeder of quarter horses among other undertakings-resulted in 1975
in the award of $2.5 million in damages to his widow and
the couple's two children.
The stone monument erected on Brush Mountain in
1974 is tribute to both his life and death. The tiny pieces
of stone, fabric, chain, flag and more that surround it
are tribute to our region's ongoing memory of that life
and death.


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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019

Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 3
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 4
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 5
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 6
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 7
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 8
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 9
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 10
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 11
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 12
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 13
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 15
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 16
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 17
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 18
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 20
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 26
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 29
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 31
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 33
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 34
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 35
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 36
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 37
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 38
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 39
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 40
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 41
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 42
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 46
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 65
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 66
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 67
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 69
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 70
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 71
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 73
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 74
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - Cover4
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