Bureaucracy is slow and unforgiving and to endure it you have to be patient. 68 years is a long time to be patient, and by any standard that makes this loving bride a saint.
When Peggy first met Billie Harris, she knew it was love at first sight. She swooned for the young man back when they met in Vernon, Texas. And because she knew he was the one, and Billie felt the same way, they were married soon after meeting back in the 1940s.
The six weeks after their wedding were pure bliss. But then their love was cut off when Billie was deployed to fight the Nazi’s in war-torn Normandy, France. Peggy was heartbroken and worried that the love of her life was leaving. She wanted him to return home safely more than anything.
As he left for Nazi-occupied Northern France on July 17, 1944, Peggy struggled to hold back the tears. If she had known that it would be the last time she would ever see Billie alive, she would have allowed her emotions to flow…
Weeks later, Peggy was told Billie was killed in action. But then she received a conflicting telegram that he was alive and on his way home. Then she was told that they had been wrong and he was dead. Her head was spinning. Was he alive or dead? Killed in action or on his way home?
Peggy went to military officials and tried to get it sorted out. But even though she persisted for decades, and had accepted that her love Billie had probably died in battle, the military failed her. They were never able to confirm Billie’s death or tell her where his body was resting.
Although he was not in her life anymore, Peggy refused to give up on her husband.
“Billie was married to me all of his life,” Peggy told CBS News. “So I chose to be married to him for all of my life.”
Finally, Peggy decided to escalate the problem. She wrote to her Texas congressman. Finally, she was told that Billie was officially marked as MIA (missing in action).
She was outraged. After decades that was the best they could do. With the help of her cousin Alton Harvey, they looked for a real answer.
“Didn’t feel right that he just went off to war and never came back,” Alton said. “We needed to know what had happened to him.”
They first asked for Billie’s military records. And the answer to his face was right there…He had been buried in Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France.
It took Peggy 68-years to learn her husband’s fate. She went to visit his grave and learned the truth about his last hours.
Billie had died a hero. His fighter jet was shot down over a small town outside Normandy called Les Ventes. Although he was mortally wounded, Billie navigated the plane away from the peaceful town and saved hundreds of lives.
Now Les Ventes celebrates Billie Harris as a hero. They named their main street “Billie D. Harris Place.” And they welcomed his widow with the honor of a queen.
Watch the video below to learn more about Billie Harris and Peggy’s relentless search for the truth.