WARRENSBURG — Fate is a strange thing. It can bring strangers together in difficult times and forge lasting bonds of friendship between two people.
For the last 75 years, fate has kept two World War II veterans together, not only in friendship, but also for 72 of those years in marriage.
“I met her in a military hospital,” Irving Brabant said. “Seventy-five years later we are still together in a military hospital.”
Irv and his wife Mary, both Veterans of WWII, have a love story that is one for the ages.
“They gave you a number and when they called it you had to go,” Irv Brabant said. “It was June of 1941 and I was 18 years old when they called mine.”
Irv was from Wisconsin and was sent to Ft. Leonard Wood for his basic training. Trained to be a cook, he was sent to New York before his deployment to England and later France.
“I was supposed to be a cook but the Army didn’t need cooks, they needed people to fight,” Irv said. “I was sent to the front lines and believe me I was really scared.”
Irv was wounded and spent a month in recovery, receiving his first Purple Heart for his injuries. After his recovery, Irv was sent back to France, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. It was there that he was injured for the second time, receiving an Oak Leaf Cluster — the equivalent to a second Purple Heart.
“I was wounded by a tree burst when the enemy fired into the trees,” Irv said. “My sciatic nerve was severed and my belly was in shreds.
“I spent the night lying in the trenches before they got me to a hospital,” he added.
Irv was eventually sent to O’Reilly General Hospital in Springfield to be treated for his injuries.
It was there that his life would change forever.
When Irv arrived at the hospital, doctors had to sew his sciatic nerve with wire to try to repair some of the damage his body had suffered.
Eventually, he was placed in a full body cast with only one leg exposed from the plaster.
It was there in the military hospital where he met his angel of mercy who would eventually become his bride.
“I know exactly where I met you,” Irv said lovingly as he looked at his wife Mary. “She took care of me and all the others, but she fell in love with me and married me.
“It’s really funny though,” he added. “She was a lieutenant, and I was a corporal and after all these years I am still taking orders from her.”
From the Kansas City area, Mary Brabant entered the military after graduating from nursing school at St. Mary’s Hospital.
“I remember the nuns of St. Mary’s thinking I would go to work for them,” Mary said. “One day, right after graduation, I remember that I went down to Union Station and I enlisted.
“I’m not sure how many Hail Mary’s I had to say for that one,” she added with a laugh. “I knew I wanted to work where I thought I could do the most good and I truly believed that would be in the Army.”
Mary first was sent to Ft. Collins, Colorado, for her basic training, before eventually making her way back to Springfield.
Irv said the couple was not supposed to date because of their rank and her job.
“We knew we weren’t supposed to fall in love, but she listened to me and she was so caring,” he said. “She had to buy some civilian clothes when I was well enough to get out of the hospital so we could go on dates because we couldn’t be seen together in our uniforms.
“I bought an old junker of a car in Springfield and that’s how we dated,” he added. “We could get a few miles away where people may not have known or recognized us as easily.”
After receiving a three-month medical furlough, the couple eventually made their way to Lee’s Summit where Irv met Mary’s parents and asked them for her hand in marriage.
“Army Chaplin David Savior married us Feb. 18, 1943, and every time he would come home he would visit us,” Irv said. “We became friends with so many of the men and women we served with.”
While many of those friends have since died, the couple feels blessed by their five children, four of whom survive, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Two of their children have followed their example, with their daughter working in a hospital and one son serving in the Marines.
“We’ve had a really good marriage,” Irv said. “We’ve had some ups and downs but that is to be expected and the way it should be.”
“Whenever two people marry you have two different personalities who came together,” Mary said. “Sometimes words are said…”
Her husband smiled.
“I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut,” he said with another grin. “I honestly don’t know where I would be without her.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484