Grafenwoehr library hosts Patton's grandson
October 23, 2008
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - Like his famed grandfather before him, George Patton Waters has trekked across continents to bring military history alive and spread a message of appreciation and support.
Hosted by the U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr library, the 67-year-old Waters - the grandson of Gen. George S. Patton Jr. - delivered stories here during a visit that brought the famous military leader to life.
"A 6' 1" guy that wears boots, carries guns, and drinks brandy in the morning... that's how I remember my grandfather," Waters said.
Waters, whose tall frame and profile is strikingly similar to his grandfather's, also visited the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy where Patton's desk is housed.
"To sit at my grandfather's desk was not only an honor but a very moving experience," he said, after viewing the ornately carved furniture. "To think from that chair came so much love of command and so much gratitude of the service so many Americans gave... I am sure the emotions ran both ways."
He said although his grandfather had a decidedly stern countenance, he also had a very large heart, one that Waters could only enjoy for a very short time. He was 5 when his grandfather died in an automobile accident near Heidelberg, Germany.
During a gathering with the Grafenwoehr Military History Group, Waters recalled how his grandfather changed his grandson's name from Georgie, as he was called, to Pat, which he is known by today.
He explained that as a child he was terrified of thunderstorms. During a fierce storm, he and his dog, a boxer, hid under a cot. Before long, he saw the brown boots of his grandfather in front of him, and a hand reaching under the bed.
"I took the boxer and pushed (him) toward the hand and the boxer bit (Patton). I heard the boxer make some noise, when the hand returned it was all bloody, and I was extracted. He said to me, 'I'll be a blank, blank, if anybody who's afraid of lightning will be called Georgie... Your name is Pat," chuckled Waters, adding that he was pretty sure his grandfather had called him Patsy.
Sharing with the group a bit of the legend that was his grandfather, Waters talked about Patton in full military dress, complete with his pearl-handled pistol, rising early one morning, drinking a spot of brandy and heading to the deck to fire off a few shots into the field.
"This cat was out there," he remembers, "and (the general) pulled his pistol out and unloaded on the cat. My brother and I ran down there to see if we could find what was left of the cat... it was just a tail."
Waters, who served five years in the Navy and owns a real estate business with his son in Louisiana, also spoke of the humbleness of sharing bloodlines with a larger-than-life icon.
"My grandfather's legacy to me is one of courage, sacrifice and patriotism," he said. "His dedication to duty remains a benchmark to which I will always look up to but the same characteristics he showed filtered through to his men and women serving with him... I feel across the board, a great pride and honor to have been born into the family but also great humility for the honors you gave to me."
"What I learned ... as I went on further through life was his compassion for people. He wept when one of his men were killed. He had a very big heart," Waters said.
Waters added, however, that his tongue was sharper than any weapon of battle.
"I think his profanity, his language, was like his sword. He used that to beat you back," he said.
Water's explained that he heard his grandfather's language for the first time when the canvas lawn chair his grandfather was sitting in gave way. "It was no more see Spot run... it was a whole new vocabulary."
But, Waters said, "he wasn't a mean person... he was the type of person who gave the credit to the men. It was they who made General Patton what he was."
And it was that same love of service members that inspired Waters' visit to the troops and families in Grafenwoehr, he said.
"I work with the Medal of Honor Foundation. Our big thing is courage, sacrifice, and patriotism. Those three words, I think, is what General Patton was all about, and I think these (Soldiers)... they're all courageous, they're all sacrificing, and they're all patriots. All I want to do is carry forth the message, as best I can... I complement you on that.
"When I look at these young Soldiers, I see heroes... I see General Pattons. Every one of those guys is a Patton because everyone is willing to die for his country, to put his life on the line."
During his visit to Grafenwoehr, Waters thanked servicemembers and asked attendees to cherish the high price of liberty.
"For God's sakes, please remember what your parents did... the sacrifices they made. Look at where we are and look at the freedom we have. If you want to be free, you've got to do what it takes," he said.