It will be one year on March 7 that Michael Kurtz passed away at the age of 90. Known as Mickey to those closest to him, his was a life marked not just by his extensive work in the Southington community, but also by his exemplary service in World War II.
He began his military service in April of 1943, spending the next year working through mainland bases such as Fort Rucker, learning the skills he would need when he arrived in Europe. It was early summer 1944 when Mickey arrived in England. His unit deployed first to France, then fought their way with Allied forces through France into Belgium, where Mickey received the first and second of three combat wounds. He also received his first Bronze Star in France.
After a hospital stint in England recovering from his wounds, now Staff Sergeant Kurtz rejoined the First Armored Division as they continued their push toward Berlin. Fighting throughout the European Theater was often fierce, as the German military refused to admit that their war was lost. In Germany Mickey was again recognized for bravery under fire and awarded his second Bronze Star. It was also in Germany where he would be wounded for the third and final time of the war. Struck down with critical pelvis and leg injuries Mickey’s combat days were done. His journey was far from over however, as he would spend more than a year in hospitals throughout Europe and the United States recovering from his devastating injuries.
After returning to Southington from the war and his convalescence, he did what his generation all did. He worked as a machinist at Clark Brothers Bolt Company and built a successful family with his wife of 60 years, Ruth. He got active in the community, maintaining membership in several local civic organizations, including the Southington Sportsman’s Association, VFW, and Polish Falcons.
The strange thing is that what makes Mickey stand out is not his bravery and heroism in World War II, not the two Bronze Stars, or three Purple Hearts. It isn’t his decade’s long service to local civic organizations or the success he and his family have had in life. What makes him stand out is that—among his generation—he didn’t stand out much at all. Mickey and Ruth are members of what Tom Brokaw correctly calls the Greatest Generation. They survived a Great Depression, won a World War, saved a society and raised their families, viewing it all as just another day at the office. They have left us a remarkable legacy. By any metric, be it war hero, active community member, or family man Mickey Kurtz’s was a life very well lived.
As we make our way through another holiday season and begin a new year, it is worth thinking about our servicemen and women in uniform today, many of them stationed far away from those they love. By the end of World War II there were over 12 million Americans in uniform protecting our nation. At the close of 2015 there are less than 1.5 million, or 0.4 percent of our population. Less than 1 percent of our population is standing guard, protecting our nation. Many are overseas, some in incredibly hostile places, all of them ensuring that we can have a safe and loving holiday season with our families. Keep them and their families here at home in your hearts this holiday season. They are leaving us their own remarkable legacy.
Happy Holidays and may you all have a safe and Happy New Year.
Glenn Dube is a lieutenant in the Southington Fire Department.