Today is Veteran's Day here in the U.S. A day to honor Americans veterans of all wars.
I think of my Grandpa Charlie in remembrance of this important day. He was one of many that fought in World War 11, but he is a personal link to history for me as a veteran who was related by blood and as someone who took the time and had the courage to write about his experience in the war and as a survivor of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.
His story is difficult to read, containing many graphic details they do not go into in the news or even broadcasted programs. But I would like to share a few words of this brave and humble man in hopes that you too will remember this day with appreciation and be thankful for all those who sacrificed their lives, their time, their health, their families and even their spirits in the face of such atrocities.
"In my life, I have actually met some people who claim the "Holocaust" of the Jewish people was exaggerated, or even made up entirely. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the truth is much more horrible then the general public could even imagine. I know, because I am an eyewitness: a World War 2 veteran and survivor of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.
Often when I mention a little of my war time experiences, people call me a war hero. I have never considered myself a hero. I was just doing the job I enlisted to do.
So many people were killed or completely disabled by their war service, that I consider myself very blessed to have come home at all.
Many years later, one of our K.L.B. members came across paperwork that showed that all of the Allied Air Men prisoners of Buchenwald were scheduled to be shot only three days after we had left for Sagan Stalag Lufft 111. So Providence was on my side, even if sometimes I doubted my future.
The Germans pretty much destroyed my health, but God protected my spirit."
Staff Sergeant Charles William Roberson
March 14, 1919 ~ October 25, 2005
March 16th, 1944, positioned as a Ball turret gunner, Charlie Roberson was shot down in an area near Samar Enout, France.
The pilot of the B-17, Bob Brown, and him hid in occupied France, helped by the underground movement, Maquie, who tried to get them back to England.
Betrayed by a friend of the French Chief of Police, they were captured, interrogated, beaten, transported in a cage and imprisoned in Feresnes in Paris.
Their transportation in the cramped, sickening condition of the boxcars to Buchenwald, in Germany, was much worse then that of cattle.
Upon their arrival at the Koncentration Lager Buchenwald (K.L.B. club), they were then "deloused", stripped of clothing, shaved, with powder thrown over their bodies and in their faces.
Stuffed into overly crowded barracks, fed grass and potato peeling soup, these men witnessed and experienced horrors from before dawn to after sunset. Enlisted, Charlie weighed 137 lbs. Liberated, he weighed in at 90 lbs.
In October, 1944, they were taken to Sagon, up near the Russian border to Stalag Lufft 111.
Conditions were considerably better although unbelievably cold.
Late January 1945, upon hearing that the Russian army was about to break through the German lines on the border, they were forced to march from Sagan to Mooseberg, down through Bavaria.
With freezing temperatures and 15 to 25 inch deep snow, Charlie almost lost his feet but for a Colonel Goodrich who rubbed them with snow and supplied dry socks and shoes.
They arrived in Mooseberg 3 days later and stayed there until April.
On April 29th, 1945, they awoke to what they thought was thunder only to find tanks surrounding the camp. They saw an American flag and knew they were liberated!
General Patton, commander of the 14th Armored Division ordered surrender. The camp commandant surrendered without a fight.
Charlie Roberson had been a prisoner of war for one year and five days. He arrived home in St. Louis late May.
Awarded a Purple Heart, the American Campaign Medal, World War 11 Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and the Bronze Service Star.
In my selfish and ignorant youth, I did not recognize the value of his actions and sacrifice while he was alive. But I do now. I am so grateful for all the service men and woman went through to insure a free nation and hope that we will continue to learn from the valuable lessons that dark time has taught us.
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy