CHATTANOOGA, Tn — May 4, 2023 is World War II veteran, Ray Chambers's 100th birthday.
Chattanooga has changed a lot in the last 100 years and Ray Chambers has been here to witness all of those changes.
"I lived at 104 Pine Street," Mr. Chambers said. "Just a block from the river."
Pine street is still in downtown Chattanooga, but the part of the street where he grew up is now called Power Alley and runs next to AT&T Field.
"We were river rats," Mr. Chambers said. "The river was our playground."
He says he was always in the water. His father lived his life on the river too.
"He kept the boats going, my dad did, the steamboats going and the barges," Mr. Chambers said.
He was a husband and father when he was drafted to go fight in World War II.
Mr. Chambers told me how that felt.
"I knew something had to be done. I realized this is our country. I wasn't better than any other boys."
He fought across France in 1944.
"I went over as a replacement with the 3rd Infantry Division."
To explain the true impact of war we can't water down or shy away from the reality.
He told me for years he couldn't stop thinking about the war.
"For a long time I had nightmares. I mean bad nightmares."
He told me about some of the things he saw in the winter of 1944 near the border between France and Germany. There are horrific things that Mr. Chambers witnessed in WWII.
"All I can tell you it was Hell. Boys crying. I don't want to die. Digging at the dirt, weeping, some hollering mama. I had that out of my mind."
Ray Chambers was a decorated war hero.
He received a Silver Star. That's the third highest honor awarded for combat valor.
He also received a Bronze star. That's right behind the Silver star.
He has a Purple Heart and many other decorations.
He says he was knocked out of the war when he was injured in France. He was hit in the head with a piece of shrapnel. Mr. Chambers says they couldn't get it out and it's still there to this day.
He says his memory isn't quite as good as it used to be, but he told me about something he saw back then that is hard to forget.
He was on a hospital train on the way to Florida. When he looked out of a window and saw close to a thousand people lined up to great the train waving American Flags.
"It was beautiful."
Ray Chambers has lived an amazing life and we wish him a very happy 100th birthday.
You can find more of our Price of Freedom stories on this website.