L. B. Kirby, 89, walked slowly, but steadily to the podium in the Grayson County Commissioner’s Courtroom Tuesday as county leaders honored him as the most decorated living WWII veteran in Texas.

L. B. Kirby, 89, walked slowly, but steadily to the podium in the Grayson County Commissioner’s Courtroom Tuesday as county leaders honored him as the most decorated living WWII veteran in Texas.


A 1943 graduate of Howe High School, Kirby entered the military just 15 days after finishing high school according to a proclamation read by Grayson County Judge Drue Bynum. The proclamation said Kirby trained as a fire operator and served as a machine gunner under General Douglas MacArthur in the First Cavalry Division of the United States Army and was hit in the back by shrapnel from a Japanese rocket. He spent three months in a field hospital recovering. He rejoined his unit preparing for an invasion of Japan by the Japanese who surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945. Kirby was one of only 25 men left out of his unit of 250.


Kirby received an honorable discharge from military service Oct. 19, 1945 with the rank of corporal having served a total of two years and five months. He served 23 months overseas in the Asiatic-Pacific theatre of operation and his awards include The Asiatic-Pacific Liberation medal, Philippine Liberation medal, three overseas service bars, seven Bronze Stars, two Bronze Arrowheads and the Purple Heart.


Freddy Holcomb spoke to the Court on Kirby’s behalf and said Kirby "did not ask for this honor." Holcomb said that Kirby always says that "the real heroes are the ones who did not make it back." Holcomb said there were a lot of things that were left out of the proclamation.


"It doesn’t talk about the time that he rescued an American solider from a prison camp. He ran with (the soldier) a half a mile to get him to safety. It’s things like that that make (Kirby) a hero," Holcomb said.


When Bynum addressed and thanked him for his service, Kirby said, "I think you are worth it. Thank you."


Kirby then received a standing ovations from the crowd in the courtroom as he left the room.


Speaking after the meeting, Kirby’s brother, Jerry Kirby of Howe, said L. B. Kirby suffers from dementia so he was not quite sure why everyone was celebrating him Tuesday.


"He said, ‘I don’t understand why they are making such a fuss over me.’" Jerry Kirby quoted his brother as saying. Jerry Kirby said the family had no idea, for years, that L.B. Kirby was such a decorated soldier.


"He never talked about the war after he got back," Jerry Kirby explained. He said they knew L. B. Kirby had a purple heart because he had been wounded in the war. When L.B.’s wife Dorothy got sick she said she wanted to see L.B.’s purple heart. Jerry Kirby said he is not sure how, but that request ended up at the offices of Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchinson. Then the family learned of the extent of L. B.’s military honors.


Jerry Kirby said he felt like his brother always felt bad that only 25 of his unit came back.


"A guy he rescued from a prison camp came to visit once, but (L.B.) never really liked to talk about the war," Jerry Kirby said. He said L.B. Kirby couldn’t work for a couple of years after the war but he then went to work at a company in Sherman before eventually making a career at Texas Power and Lights. He retired from TP&L and then went into the seminary.


"He was ordained a Baptist minister," Jerry Kirby said. He said his brother pastored churches in Lubbock and Durant. "Where ever there was a church that was in trouble, he would take it for no pay," Jerry Kirby said in a voice that resonated with brotherly pride.


He said L. B. and Dorothy Kirby had two babies that died shortly after birth and a son who was killed in car wreck in 1963.


Jerry Kirby said the attention and respect his brother is getting for his military service is touching even though the family has not sought it.


Discussing the fact that the city of Howe named a street after L.B. Kirby, Jerry Kirby said it would have been wonderful if it had all happened a few years ago so L. B. could really understand why it was happening.


In additional business, the Court also approved early voting polling places and hours for the March 4 Primary Election. Early voting for the primary begins on Tuesday Feb. 18 and continues through Friday Feb. 28. Commissioners approved five early voting locations including the Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston in Sherman, the Grayson County Sub-Courthouse, 101 W. Woodard in Denison, the Pottsboro Independent School District Administration Building, 105 Cardinal Lane in Pottsboro, Whitesboro City Hall, 111 W. Main in Whitesboro and Grayson College South Campus, 1455 W. Van Alstyne Pkwy. in Van Alstyne. Early voting hours approved for Feb. 18 through 22 were 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 23 voters may cast ballots at all locations from noon to 5 p.m. Then Feb. 24 though 28 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.