‘Band of Brothers’ warrior welcomed warmly

Lynn “Buck” Compton signs autographs for juniors at Coupeville High School Thursday. He visited the school to share his experiences of World War II.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Lynn “Buck” Compton signs autographs for juniors at Coupeville High School Thursday. He visited the school to share his experiences of World War II.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

A member of a famed World War II parachute company was peppered with questions Thursday afternoon by a curious and welcoming group of Coupeville High School juniors.

Lynn “Buck” Compton, 89, a lieutenant in the 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment Easy Company, visited history and English students. They had a list of nearly 70 questions they had prepared in the weeks leading up to his presentation. They asked him about his experiences in World War II, playing baseball with Jackie Robinson in the minor leagues, and prosecuting Sirhan Sirhan — the man who assassinated Robert Kennedy.

Compton was one of the men whose experiences were chronicled in “Band of Brothers,” an award-winning television miniseries originally broadcast in 2001.

One student asked what was the scariest part of the war and he answered that it was having to endure a barrage at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

“It was the worst I’ve ever experienced,” Compton, who currently lives in Burlington, said. “I could taste gun powder in my mouth.” He added he could never understand why the Germans didn’t follow up after the shelling ended.

He went on to share experiences about how he accidently lost his gear while landing in Normandy, and getting wounded in the buttocks.

“It’s gotten more publicity because of where it was,” Compton quipped, describing the pain he felt as similar to something that would happen during a fraternity hazing.

“When I got hit with the bullet, it was like I was getting hit with one of those paddles,” Compton said.

He didn’t have trouble readjusting to life outside of the military. He said he continued with plans to play professional baseball, but ultimately wanted to  attend law school and become a police officer.

On a lighter note, someone asked how he got his nickname “Buck.” The answer is simple:
“I gave it to myself,” Compton said. “Lynn was a girl’s name and I hated it.”

Another student asked which was more enjoyable, being a soldier or a police officer. He didn’t hesitate to say a police officer.

“If left to my own devices, I would have retired as a cop,” Compton said, adding that his wife thought it was better to start practicing law so he switched over to the district attorney’s office.

More than 60 juniors crammed into teacher Ryan Grenz’s classroom to hear Compton speak.

“His attitude was enlightening,” Junior Dalton Engle said after the question and answer session.

Junior Emily Burchfield said it was nice hearing so many stories from Compton and she was surprised at how friendly and open he appeared.

The students listening to Compton were part of Ryan Grenz’s U.S. History College Prep class and classmates from a neighboring English class.

Even after World War II, Compton was part of several noteworthy events. He explained to the students how he ended up prosecuting Sirhan Sirhan.

He also talked about his appointment to the California Court of Appeals, complimenting the man who named him to the bench — then Gov. Ronald Reagan.

“He’s the most unpretentious nice guy you’d ever want to meet,” Compton said of the late president.

Compton said he considered his years in the military one of the best times of his life.

“I wouldn’t trade it for a million dollars,” Compton said, encouraging all males to give at least two years of military service.

Teacher Ryan Grenz said students have been studying the Holocaust and are getting ready to learn about Japanese internment camps.

Grenz said he heard Compton speak at a retirement center in Burlington and he has been working with him since the start of the year to find a suitable date. He recorded the presentation and plans to use the footage in future classes.

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