There is a new deputy on the beat for the Martin County Sheriff's Office--at least in spirit. His name is Bill Mohr. Oh, and he is 107-years-old. Make that young, if the twinkle in his eyes is any indication.
Sheriff William Snyder met Mohr a few months ago at a local restaurant and learned he is a World War II Army combat veteran. Mohr spends the winters in Port Saint Lucie. "He came," Snyder said, "from a day and age and generation where self-sacrifice was second nature."
So here was Mohr this week, getting a ride with the sheriff in a patrol car. Mohr cracked, "Don't worry; I've got all my life insurance paid up."
The ride was only part of a special day. In front of a room packed with staff and deputies, Sheriff Snyder made Mohr a special honorary deputy. The only thing shining more brightly than the badge Mohr clutched was the smile etched across his face. His daughter, Jodie, laughed along with everyone else when her dad happily exclaimed, "Where is my six shooter?" Snyder chuckled hard and said that request might have to be "negotiable."
It wasn't all laughs in the room as everyone lined up with Mohr for pictures. He was born in Philadelphia in 1908. Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House. In World War II, and already approaching his mid-thirties, Mohr's family said he headed off to European battlefields and became a mortar sergeant in the Army.
His 157th Infantry Regiment helped liberate Dachau. Neither passage of time, even for a centenarian, can erase those images nor the ones of buddies he saw fall in combat. Don't ask Mohr if he thinks he is a hero. His voice cracked and those twinkling eyes filled with tears as he said, "The boys who gave their life, they are the heroes."
Everyone in the room with the newly-minted special deputy was in awe--perhaps none more so than the men and women who wear the deputy's uniform on the streets of Martin County. Lt. Stephen Mochen told me, "I'm a former Marine myself and to know there is somebody that age, that has sacrificed all he sacrificed, seen everything he's seen, is incredible."
All that life --the happiness and sorrow--takes its toll. And yet, for all of that, Mohr's patriotism has never dulled. He proudly said, "America is the greatest country in the world."
There was one other thing Mohr said that will always stay with Sheriff Snyder. "The thing he (Mohr) said I'll never forget," Snyder told me, "is that in all the fighting he did a lot of running, but never backwards. That is a true American hero."