Off the Beaten Path: Member of the greatest generation, completing one last mission

CLAY COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – Imagine carrying information around with you that you’ve wanted to share since World War II ended. That’s exactly what one local veteran from Clay County has done for more than 70 years.

On Monday afternoon, Staff Sergeant John Mace was finally able to share that news.

“I’ve been wanting to do this after I got out of the service after World War II was over,” Mace said.

You see, Staff Sergeant Mace fought alongside another soldier by the name of Harry Kent. One cold January day in 1945, Kent shared exciting news that he had become a father. Just days later, he was killed.

“I was with him the day of his death.”

For more than seven decades, Mace assumed that Kent’s son couldn’t have known that his father did in fact know of his birth. That’s where Gary Kent comes in.

“John had served with my dad and knew him well and wanted to meet me for a long, long time,” Gary said.

Two weeks ago, Gary Kent knew nothing about John Mace. And then suddenly, he found himself listening to stories about the father he never got to know.

“Your dad was a good man…” Mace recollected.

Moments of history shared in front of our eyes. History of the war, history of our country and history that had been on John Mace’s mind for more than 70 years.

“Would you have been near him on the battlefield the day he was killed?” Gary asked John about his father.

“I was about 12 feet from him,” he told Gary.

And then, a revelation.

“He got a telegram that said you was born on the 12th,” John explained.

A moment, frozen in time.

“He got that?”

“Yes. He got the telegram but he got killed the next day.”

A 71-year-old son taking in a firsthand account of the day his dad died in battle.

“I mean this just blows my mind, to think that here I am, 71-years-old, and I’m talking to a guy that was 12 feet from my dad when he was killed,” Gary said.

And a member of the greatest generation, completing one last mission. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you confirm your email address and acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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