Norfolk Armory to honor EC women’s father
By Jon Hawley
Monday, August 12, 2019
Sixteen years ago, sisters Karen and Synda Lindblad lost their father, a highly decorated World War II veteran who braved the beaches of Normandy as a combat medic.
Gone is not forgotten, though.
The Virginia National Guard is helping make sure of that. On Wednesday, the guard will rename its armory in Norfolk in honor of Arnold Lindblad Sr.
Karen and Sydna, who live in Elizabeth City, shared their father’s story during an interview Friday, with their brother Steven, of Suffolk, Virginia, and a National Guard spokesman, helping fill in some details.
Arnold Lindblad Sr. was born in Brooklyn in 1919, a few years before his family moved to Norfolk. He enlisted in the Guard before World War II — so long ago that the military still used some horses and he was issued spurs, Steven noted.
A medic by training and a chief warrant officer by rank, Lindblad was sent to war in 1942, first heading to Great Britain. He was charged with serving and patching up the 29th Infantry Division.
That was no small feat on June 6, 1944, when the division joined the Allied forces’ massive invasion on the beaches of Normandy. He accompanied the front lines and cared for the infantry and artillerymen on the beach and inland.
Lindblad received the Bronze Star for being part of the invasion — and the Purple Heart because he didn’t come out unscathed, Steven said.
What Lindblad saw on those beaches, and how it affected him, is something of a mystery to his children. Karen and Sydna said their father almost never detailed his service, though they said they knew he participated in liberating some concentration camps.
Steven said he knows his father once rescued a severely injured landmine victim; the man survived, as best Steven knows.
There was also not a bragging bone in his body. He never wore all his awards, and even got in trouble once because he didn’t put all of them on his uniform, Steven said.
“I never saw him in his Purple Heart,” Sydna said.
Lindblad returned home and started a family with his wife, Jeanne, and worked for the old Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company while continuing as a guardsman.
Though their father had quite a military career, what’s leading to him being recognized now, after all this time?
A remarkable chance encounter, Steven said. Maybe two years ago, Steven said he was at an event for firefighters in Richmond. Part of a motorcycle club, he was wearing a patch from the 29th, and that caught the attention of Maj. Gen. Timothy Williams, who happened to be there to speak.
After explaining his father’s service, the general followed up with him and, in keeping with an initiative to better recognize enlisted men, offered to name a facility after him.
Renaming Norfolk’s armory for him is fitting, Steven said, because his father actually took him there when it was first built.
Wednesday’s ceremony will include, Williams, the adjutant general of Virginia, and be hosted by the leaders of the 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, according to the National Guard.
As part of its effort to recognize enlisted men, the guard also named the guard’s headquarters in Richmond after Sgt. Bob Slaughter, “a driving force behind establishing the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va.,” the guard reported.
When they were growing up, Lindblad’s children recall their father as being stern but deeply loving, to the point that their household was almost always full of foster children. Their parents would take in foster kids for varying lengths of time, often to help other service members.
“I had to tiptoe around them when I got home,” Steven said of his high school years.
They also described him as a bit of prankster, so much so that their mom bopped him with a frying pan once when he startled her in the kitchen.
Karen and Sydna also said their father didn’t buy into sexism or dividing chores by gender, though that might be expected from someone of his generation. Boys and girls helped out with whatever needed doing, and he’d often cook, they noted.
Karen and Sydna also recalled his enduring love of their mother, and of his country — even on his deathbed.
Their father died of congestive heart failure. When it became clear that the end was coming, he asked to be taken home, where he could rest in comfort while being with family and friends and looking at a picture of Jeanne. She died first; she was also his childhood sweetheart and his wife for almost 50 years, they said.
“She was his life,” Karen said.
They said it was his daily ritual to raise and lower the American flag. They put the flag at half-staff when he died, they said.
Steven also shared that his father’s service led to his own career in the National Guard, for which he served for 21 years.