Veteran stories: Losing his religion


KENNEWICK -- Loren P. Henderson figured he'd get an engineering degree when he joined the Army Specialized Training Program in 1943. He had even considered becoming a minister and enjoyed his time at New York University.

Soon after, the Army scaled back the program. Suddenly, he and the rest of his classmates became infantrymen. Henderson joined the 104th Infantry Division and headed to the European Theater.

Once, a nearby bomb explosion created a hole in the ground. He and four others got into the hole figuring it was a safe spot, but another bomb struck, killing a lieutenant and blowing the rest out.

"I didn't get hurt at all," he said, laughing. "But it shook you up."

Then, on Nov. 4, 1943, shrapnel from a German tank shell hit Henderson in the hip.

"It turned out to be lucky because I wound up at a Paris hospital at the time of the Battle of the Bulge and my platoon was decimated ... all captured and killed, so I was very fortunate," he said.

He earned a Purple Heart from that injury, but by the time he got out of the service in December 1945, he'd experienced a change of heart about pursuing a career as minister.

"I don't even believe in God," he said. "I can't believe God would let something like that happen to the world."

Henderson, now 89, lives at Hawthorne Court Retirement Community in Kennewick and stays active by bowling three times a week.

He hasn't revisited the old battlefields in Europe or made the trip to Washington, D.C., to see the National World War II Memorial. He doesn't usually talk about his time in the Army and hasn't kept in touch with his fellow veterans.

And while he's participated in some Veterans Day ceremonies in the past, it's not a holiday he particularly looks forward to.

What will he do this year?

"Probably go watch football," he said with a chuckle.


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