Floyd Montgomery placed his right hand on the left pocket of his U.S. Army field jacket, fearing he would feel moisture.
Moments earlier, a German artillery shell had rocked Montgomery, unleashing its fury near the U.S. Army sergeant on Omaha Beach during the Battle of Normandy.
"The shell came so close I could smell powder," he said. "I looked down and there was a hole in my field jacket. I took my hand, put it over the pocket and felt for blood, but couldn't feel any."
So, Montgomery removed his jacket and a section of shrapnel from the shell fell out, landing in his hand.
He knew he had been hit, but couldn't understand why he wasn't bleeding.
Reaching into his pocket, Montgomery pulled out his billfold, some papers and one other item. The shrapnel had pierced through the billfold and papers but was stopped by the third item, which was the closest to Montgomery's chest — a small Bible he had received just one day earlier.
"That turned the shell off of me," he said. "There was a big L-shaped hole that had made it about one-third of the way through it."
"It really floored me, you know?" Montgomery commented, staring ahead a bit as though reliving that moment in his mind.
He said that Bible was a lifesaver, but the shell still had a permanent impact. Montgomery's hearing started getting worse after the explosion.
Today, the 96-year-old resident of Brookdale Senior Living in Florence continues to suffer to the point of near-deafness. Montgomery needed two hearing aids, but traveling to a Veterans Administration hospital would be too much for him to handle.
When the staff at Droke Hearing Aid Center in Florence found out about his situation, they asked Brookdale officials to bring in Montgomery. He arrived Thursday and was fitted for two free aids.
Droke's Don Littrell said they did so as a gesture of gratitude.
"It feels good to give back to him," Littrell said. "He deserves it. Veterans deserve a lot more than we do. They went over there so we didn't have to."
Even with the aids, Montgomery has difficulty hearing but is able to hear enough to engage in conversation.
Brookdale Program Director Tonya Belew said that is a major improvement. She said it had reached the point where they had to write Montgomery notes.
"He wasn't hearing anything before this," Belew said. "This is awesome."
Montgomery was chatting after being fitted at Droke's and shared the story of the Bible — the "Testament," as he calls it — and how it came into his possession.
He said the day before the shell hit, he noticed a fellow soldier reading a Bible, so he asked the soldier if he could borrow it. The soldier gladly obliged, and Montgomery spent the rest of the day reading it.
"It started getting dark and I asked if I could keep it another day," Montgomery said. "He said, 'You can have it. I've got more where that came from.'"
So Montgomery kept the Bible, securing it in his pocket near his heart. He would go on to be awarded numerous medals, including the Silver Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman's Badge.
As for the "Testament," Montgomery said it still is being put to use. He said Russellville preacher Troy Oliver sometimes takes it to church events to share the story behind it.
"It's still doing its job," Montgomery said.
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