Jug Noel – A life of service to his country and his fellow veterans
By Tom Murphy
Gerald “Jug” Noel carried a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) on Okinawa towards the end of World War II. Now he carries small American flags to Freeburg’s cemeteries prior to Memorial Day and honors fellow veterans by placing those flags on their graves.
The example of respect and honor was passed along to him by his father Herb, a World War I veteran, who also placed flags at the graves of veterans. Herb was stationed in a lumber camp in France with a unit of engineers. It is believed that flags were placed as early as the 1940s when John Loveless Post 191 of the American Legion was formed in Caledonia. Herb died in 1971 and Jug took over his job. Between them, the father and son have about 60 years of remembering the sacrifices of those who served.
Jug reached Okinawa in April, 1945, after entering the service on Sept. 18, 1944.
The fighting was fierce on the islands in the Pacific. Along with the 19 pound BAR, Jug carried 12 magazines each containing 20 rounds. He was at the lead of a squad of Army infantrymen with the fully automatic rifle that laid down suppressive fire when the unit was attacked.
When he arrived in Okinawa, he was an assistant to the BAR gun carrier. Jug’s job was to carry even more magazines.
“When the BAR rifleman was killed, I was right along side of him. I was assigned his job. You didn’t have a choice. If they told you, you had to do it,” he recalled of the new assignment.
The survival rate of the guy on the BAR rifle was pretty low. “Richard Kibler of Morven, North Carolina is why I am here,” Jug said. “He was a tall hillbilly. Quite a boy,”
When the war ended in the Pacific in August, 1945, the 7th Infantry Division went to Korea, gathered up the Japanese, and sent them home.
“We were transferred to Korea and were part of the occupation force because there was no government. I had a job of driving a jeep for the company commander,” Jug said.
He was discharged on Nov. 2, 1946, at Fort Sheridan, IL.
“Rita and I were married in 1952,” he said. They have three daughters, Carol, Sharon and Sue. A son, Mike, is deceased.
“Cletus Link and I joined the reserves and served from 1949 to 1953. I took my discharge at that time,” he said. Jug later worked in construction. “I retired when I was 65 but kept working until I was 82,” he laughs.
Early last week, he took the Freeburg cemeteries’ flags down. There are 34 in all. Jug carries a little book with the names of the veterans on whose graves he places the flag. They mean more to him than just a name in a book because he knew many of them.
“Ambrose Olinger was a year or two older than me. We went to the same school in Freeburg.”
He remembers Clarence Theobald who died serving with a tank unit in Europe. “A bunch of us were pallbearers for his funeral,” Jug recalls.
“There is Art Lampert who is Chuck and Arlyn’s dad. Bob Richards is a guy who I knew well.”
There is the Freeburg Cemetery, which some know as the Upper Cemetery, or the St. Nicholas Cemetery, and the Lower Cemetery also known as the Evangelical Church of Peace Cemetery. The upper and lower references note their location to Freeburg on Crooked Creek.
Jug noted Peter Wirt, who served in the Union Army during the Civil War as well as Frank Ott, who served in the Spanish American War. He remembers Art Dunn who put up a stone before he died. “Art had a rough time in Italy in World War II,” he recalls of Art’s service.
In the Evangelical Peace Church Cemetery, the following veterans are buried, according to Jug’s book: George Neuman, Russel Roth, Wayne Elsheimer, Henry Heiller, Arthur Lampert, Arlyn Lampert (who died in combat in Vietnam), Ed Lampert, Robert Richards, Alton Schuldt, Arthur Hahn, William Zarwell, George Lampert, Frank Ott, Daryl Lampert, and Mathias J. Noel, whose grandfather was a brother to Jug’s grandfather. Then there is his brother-in-law, Omar Goetzinger.
At the Freeburg Cemetery where Peter Wirt is buried, there is Fred Schleich, Mary Olinger (who was a nurse in World War II), Ambrose Olinger, Art Dunn, Clarence Theobald, Herb Noel, Cletus Mack, Joseph Miller, Matthew Welsh, Emmett Utke, Donald Link, Paul Miller, George Fisch, Charles Miller, David Nord, Peter Fisch, and Anton Noel.
Jug is a longtime active member of Loveless-Eikens Post #191 where he regularly attends meetings and has been a regular member of the Honor Guard at funerals for deceased veterans. He is a rifleman at the burial sites.
Looking at the notebook containing the names, he says “All I have to show for these years placing the flags are my memories of all these people and this little book.” It is personal with him, a life of service to his country and to his fellow veterans.