Josh Roe shares a family story of military service
The first time I remember hearing anyone speak about the military was at the kitchen table listening to my grandfather.
Bill Roe served in World War II. He was in the Navy and the Army. He was part of a big family with seven boys and three girls.
Five of the brothers served in the military.
My grand father passed away several years ago but his brother J. C. is still living. He told me his story of serving in WWII.
"My grandfather owned a farm where the University of Tennessee is now," J. C. Roe said.
The West Tennessee Ag Research and Education Center is on Airways Boulevard in Jackson, TN. J.C. Roe lives about three miles from the old family farm. He was the fourth child, the third of seven sons.
"Daddy, he was a sweet person. He loved his family, and he knowed he was poor," J. C. said. "But we always had something to eat some way or another."
J.C. received his draft notice in 1944. His two older brothers were already in the war.
"We took a train from here to Fort Oglethorpe and a train from there out of the station in Chattanooga," J. C. said.
That train took him to Florida for training. He later boarded a ship to La Harve, France.
"I have heard people late in the night," J. C. said. "Don't know what they was crying for, but you could hear them crying and sometimes it would set off a chain reaction."
He arrived in France in January 1945 for the last few months of the war in Europe.
"We went into a staging area where they had dead Germans on one side and dead G.I.'s on the other and that's when I began to get so scared and tremble," J. C. said.
He says he dropped to his knees and prayed. He says from that point forward he felt a calmness come over him.
He spent the rest of the war in rear echelon support and then worked at a hospital in a camp that held German prisoners.
"If anybody died we would take them to their hometown to be buried," J. C. said.
They also sent him to help take care of the people who were liberated from Nazi prison camps including the Camp at Dachau.
"It was another world," J. C. said. "It's hard to believe things like that happened."
And so many of those memories have not faded with time.
"I can shut my eyes and see it," J. C. Roe said. "I can shut my eyes and see the gas room."
J. C. Roe says there were challenging times during the war, but after the war he reenlisted and stayed in the Army. He later came home and served in the Army Reserves.
"We were so proud when we come back home," J. C. said. "That uniform you see right there I was strutting that uniform, man."
In 1951 J. C. Roe went to work for the Tennessee Highway Patrol and stayed there for twenty-seven years.