The Five Bailey Brothers of World War II

Each of them a combat veteran, and real American.

Every Memorial Day I attend an annual parade in Mercer, Pennsylvania, which I never miss. It’s pure Americana: the flags, the kids, the snow-cone stand, the marching bands, the Shriners in their go-carts racing along, the local clubs and rotaries and 4-H, politicians from county government and borough council and everything else. And there are always veterans of wars past walking or riding down the street.

Every year, one exhibit always strikes me most: a car with a placard announcing the “Five Bailey Brothers.” The mere name always gives me a good feeling: Bailey. It reminds me of “George Bailey,” played by the great Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. That movie, of course, has a wonderful ending, a happy ending—and so does the story of the Bailey brothers.

After several years of watching the Bailey car ride by, I finally took the time to try to track down the last surviving Bailey brother: Richard, or “Dick.” I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he just happens to live in my own backyard, right here in Grove City, Pennsylvania. He is 91 years old and sharp as a tack. I asked to meet with him, and if he minded me bringing three of my kids. He cheerfully obliged.

Born in Grove City on Christmas Eve 1922, Dick Bailey was one of five Bailey brothers who served in World War II. That’s right, five of them. You’ve heard of the Ryan brothers in Saving Private Ryan and perhaps the Sullivan brothers in the old black-and-white The Fighting Sullivans. And you know from these movies that the nation resolved not to have so many brothers ever again serve together in one war. The loss of one of them is hard enough for any mom or dad. Picture the unforgettable scene of the mother at a farm in the Midwest being informed of her loss in Saving Private Ryan. That scene is devastating.


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