I Was Asked to Serve…

Colonel Strauss and his granddaughter, Jemma
Colonel Strauss and his granddaughter, Jemma

It is with regret that we share the news that one of our former Memorial Day guest speakers, Colonel Saul Strauss, U.S. Army, Dental Corps, passed away yesterday at the age of 95. Colonel Strauss served as an oral surgeon in the U.S. Army Dental Corps, but he performed in combat as a battlefield Field Surgeon. He served his country for 37 years and made Chapel Hill his home.

Colonel Strauss was featured in the Winter 2013 edition of The Diamond, a publication of the Kornberg School of Dentistry, Temple University. He was a graduate of the Class of ’43. At the end of the interview for the story, Colonel Strauss he was asked a simple question. “What did you most appreciate about your long career?” He answered, “It’s simply, That I was asked to serve.” (Read the whole story, page 23.)

This writer remembers the Colonel well.  He joined us for every Memorial Day.  He was very proud to have served.  I sat down with him at his home for an interview in preparation for his service as our guest of honor and speaker for Memorial Day 2011.  Here are a few highlights from my notes.

  • After the Battle of the Bulge, he was made an Advance Battalion Surgeon, replacing the battalion surgeon who was captured by the Germans.  He joked about the event with me because he was a dentist.  It was a “Who? Me?” moment that presented his greatest and, maybe, his most rewarding challenge.
  • Colonel Strauss told me that his medical training was similar to a physician, but his specialized training in dental surgery made him especially valuable on the battlefield. As his commander told him, he was more qualified than a physician for the job at hand. Thus began his combat service as a battlefield field surgeon.
  • Colonel Strauss was also the Advance Battalion Surgeon for the 69th Infantry Division (Link-up Division), when the U.S. Army linked up with the Soviet Army in Torgau, Germany.  “That was one interesting week with the Soviets,” he said. Torgau celebrated the 65th anniversary of the link-up that year on April 25th 2011.
  • After the war, Colonel Strauss was assigned as a surgeon supporting the post-war reconstruction of battle areas.
Mrs. Strauss proudly displayed the colonel's medals on Memorial Day
Mrs. Strauss proudly displayed the colonel’s medals on Memorial Day

Colonel Strauss served his country for 37 years and made Chapel Hill his home.  We are all better for it.  After all, as he said, “I was asked to serve.”  That is what he continued to do as a Chapel Hill military veteran.

A graveside service will be held in Carrboro, Sunday, October 12, at 2 p.m. Interment is at the Judea Reform Congregation Cemetery, 2560 Jones Ferry Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, near the intersection with Damascus Church Road.

If you are a World War II or Battle of the Bulge veteran, take time off and join us and his family.  Who knows, you may have walked or driven by this field surgeon.  Maybe still, you may have been saved or cared for by him and his team.

Lee Heavlin

Print Friendly, PDF & Email