THE BELGIAN CORPORAL By Neal Knox
In the summer of 1955, I was a young Texas National
Guard sergeant on active duty at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
A corporal in my squad was a Belgian-American
named Charles DeNaer. An old man as far as most of
us were concerned, being well over thirty, Charley
commanded a certain amount of our respect, for not
only was he older than the rest of us, he had lived in
Belgium when the Germans rolled across the low
countries by-passing the Maginot Line on their way
into France. He had seen war.
One soft Oklahoma afternoon, sitting on a bunk in the
half-light of an old wooden barracks, he told me his
In Charley's little town in Belgium, there lived an old
man, a gunsmith. The old man was friendly with the
kids and welcomed them to his shop. He had once
been an armorer to the king of Belgium, according
to Charley. He told us of the wonderful guns the old
man had crafted, using only hand tools. There were
double shotguns and fine rifles with beautiful hard
wood stocks and gorgeous engraving and inlay work.
Charley liked the old man and enjoyed looking at the
guns. He often did chores around the shop.
One day the gunsmith sent for Charley. Arriving at
the shop, Charley found the old man carefully
oiling and wrapping guns in oilcloth and paper.
Charley asked what he was doing. The old smith
gestured to a piece of paper on the workbench and
said that an order had come to him to register all of
his guns. He was to list every gun with a description
on a piece of paper and then to send the paper to
the government. The old man had no intention of
complying with the registration law and had
summoned Charley to help him bury the guns at
a railroad crossing. Charley asked why he didn't
simply comply with the order and keep the guns.
The old man, with tears in his eyes, replied to the
boy, "If I register them, they will be taken away. "
A year or two later, the blitzkrieg rolled across the
Low Countries. One day not long after, the war
arrived in Charley's town. A squad of German SS
troops banged on the door of a house that Charley
knew well. The family had twin sons about Charley's
age. The twins were his best friends. The officer
displayed a paper describing a Luger pistol, a relic
of the Great War, and ordered the father to produce
it. That old gun had been lost, stolen, or misplaced
sometime after it had been registered, the father
explained. He did not know where it was.
The officer told the father that he had exactly fifteen
minutes to produce the weapon. The family turned
their home upside down. No pistol. They returned
to the SS officer empty-handed.
The officer gave an order and soldiers herded the
family outside while other troops called the entire
town out into the square. There on the town square
the SS machine-gunned the entire family -- father,
mother, Charley's two friends, their older brother
and a baby sister.
I will never forget the moment. We were sitting on the
bunk on a Saturday afternoon and Charley was crying,
huge tears rolling down his cheeks, making silver dollar
size splotches on the dusty barracks floor.
That was my conversion from a casual gun owner to
one who was determined to prevent such a thing from
ever happening in America.
Later that summer, when I had returned home I went
to the president of the West Texas Sportsman's Club
in Abilene and told him I wanted to be on the legislative
committee. He replied that we didn't have a legislative
committee, but that I was now the chairman.
I, who had never given a thought to gun laws, have
been eyeball deep in the "gun control" fight ever
As the newly-minted Legislative Committee Chairman
of the West Texas Sportsman's club, I set myself to
some research. I had never before read the Second
Amendment, but now noticed that The American
Rifleman published it in its masthead. I was delighted
to learn that the Constitution prohibited laws like
Belgium's. There was no battle to fight, I thought.
We were covered. I have since learned that the words
about a militia and the right of the people to keep and
bear, while important, mean as much to a determined
enemy as the Maginot line did to Hitler.
Rather than depend on the Second Amendment to
protect our gun rights, I've learned that we must
protect the Second Amendment and the precious
rights it recognizes.
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