POLAND — Two days before the war in Europe ended in 1945, Laurence Jordan woke in a tent hospital in Austria. His wounds, the result of a German bazooka shell and a gunshot to the jaw, left him in so much pain that he wanted to die.

“I remember waking up with bandages wrapped around me with little holes for my eyes and mouth,” said Jordan, now 85. He prayed, seizing on a New Testament plea to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

He would learn that surviving ran in the family.

Jordan, the 12th of 17 kids, was one of seven brothers from Auburn who fought in World War II. All seven survived, despite enduring some of the war’s harshest fighting.

The brothers — Almon, Carl, Earle, Laurence, Norman, Robert and Sheldon — served aboard ships and in the infantry. There were Jordans in Europe and the Pacific. Two took part in the Normandy invasion. Two earned Purple Hearts.

During Wednesday’s commemoration of Veterans Day, the names of all seven will be unveiled on the 18th stone tablet in Veterans Memorial Park in Lewiston.

Laurence Jordan plans to attend the afternoon unveiling. None of his brothers will be with him. Norman, Almon, Carl, Robert and Sheldon have died. Earle, now 92, lives in Florida and is unable to make the journey.

Friends and family — including his wife of more than 60 years, Mary Ella — will stand with Laurence and examine the engraved names.

What would he want people to know about the Jordan brothers?

“We all loved our country and were willing to fight for it,” Laurence said.

That’s how he was raised, he said.

Danger and adventure

The Army drafted Laurence just as he was finishing high school in the spring of 1943. Two weeks after he received his diploma, he shipped out.

Several brothers were already in uniform.

“Sheldon and I were the first to go,” said Earle in a phone interview. “We must have been a patriotic family. For us, it was the thing to do.”

Their brother, Carl, joined when he was still a minor, convincing his mother, Carrie Emma, to sign his enlistment papers to join the U.S. Navy. He was only 18 when the war ended in August 1945, but he had served aboard ships in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

“I think he lied about his age,” said his widow, Hazel Jordan.

There was an element of adventure to it, Earle said. “I was an inquisitive guy.”

The big family had begun in West Bethel in the 1910s. By the time the Great Depression hit, they had migrated to Auburn, where there was work in the mills. When Congress declared war at the end of 1941, Earle was a 24-year-old who’d been working grown-up jobs for nearly a decade, dropping out of school after completing the eighth grade.

He wanted to see the world. His service portrait shows a handsome young man with an Errol Flynn-style moustache.

“We all wanted to get into it,” Laurence said.

More earnestly, he hoped to turn his service into protecting his family. He remembered that his basic training aimed to make it more simple: “Kill or be killed.”

“I never thought of it as that,” Laurence said. “I didn’t want to kill.”

Battle of the Bulge

The Army put him in harm’s way, nonetheless, ordering him to a reconnaissance arm of the Third Army. When the massive unit landed on Normandy beaches a few days after D-Day, Laurence was with them.

He didn’t know his brother Carl had been part of the allied armada that had formed off the French coast. On D-Day, he served aboard one of the ships that delivered allied troops to the beaches. Such information came years later.

“I didn’t know anything about my brothers,” Laurence said. “I didn’t know where they were or what they were doing.”

Earle, who had earned his commission by 1943, managed to meet Norman in a town north of Naples, Italy, for one glorious afternoon.

But there was little time for reunions.

For the final 11 months of the war in Europe, Laurence’s Third Army — commanded by Gen. George Patton — rarely stopped. The army streaked across France and fought an attacking German army in the Battle of the Bulge. Then, they raced across Germany.

“In 269 days, we had one day off,” Laurence said.

His reconnaissance unit was charged with finding the enemy. The work often found him and his buddies on either side of the lines.

“We were all on our own,” he said.

They were in Austria only four days before the German surrender when his armed car was hit by the bazooka. The blast and the gunfire that followed almost killed him. He was unconscious for two days and woke in a tent hospital.

His prayer of thanks to God did its work.

“I don’t know how I’d have made it without my faith,” Laurence said. He often found strength in the Gospel of John and its promise that God was with him always. He needed all the strength he could muster. He would spend months in a Paris hospital and another year in Framingham, Mass.

He managed to see his mother again and much more.

Proud mom at the Blaine House

All seven sons made it home safely.

Earle would go on to become a career soldier. In Korea, he earned a Distinguished Service Cross and a Bronze Star for heroism. After 21 years in uniform, he retired as a lieutenant colonel. He used the GI Bill to fund his way through college, eventually earning a master’s degree. He became a teacher and school principal.

Not long after the war, the boys got together at home in Auburn. They learned what they’d all done. They joined the VFW. And they found out that their mother — who hung seven blue stars in her Goff Hill window — had been invited to dinner at the Blaine House with the governor in recognition of her sacrifice.

“My mother was very proud,” Earle said.

She would be honored to know that their names have been engraved in stone. Reggie Emery Sr., a brother-in-law to the Jordans, paid the fees for all seven to be listed on the downtown memorial.

“I wanted to honor them,” said Emery, a Korean War veteran.

“I wouldn’t have done it myself, but I am honored,” said Laurence, who used the GI Bill to go to college and seminary.

He became a minister and a missionary. He and Mary Ella spent 20 years as missionaries in Brazil and led churches here in Maine. Laurence continues to serve as an elder at East Auburn Baptist Church.

The couple had five children: two girls and three boys. All three sons entered the military.

“I’ve had a wonderful life,” Laurence said last week, sitting in his living room in Poland. As Mary Ella readied to do an errand, she said goodbye and gave him a kiss.

“See that?” he said, smiling. “A wonderful life.”

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The Rev. Laurence Jordan holds a Nazi flag that he found in a building in Germany during World War II, and had fellow troops sign. For security reasons troops were never told where they were, so he does not know exactly where the flag came from. He keeps it tucked away and rarely brings it out.

A framed print of the seven Jordan brothers who served in World War II hangs proudly in the hall of the home of the Rev. Laurence Jordan in Poland, with photos of his three sons who also served in the armed forces.

The purple heart won by the Rev. Laurence Jordan, one of seven brothers from Auburn who fought in World War II.

One of the numerous campaign ribbons awarded to Rev. Laurence Jordan, one of seven brothers from Auburn who fought in World War 2.

WWII 20th Corps Patch worn by Rev. Laurence Jordan on his uniform when he served during the war.

The radio operator patch that the Rev. Laurence Jordan wore on his uniform in World War II.

Korean war veteran Reggie Emery Sr. of Auburn

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