Vol. 11


My War Hero

1940s; Central Europe; Greene County, North Carolina, USA

I never knew my granddad David, because he died when my dad was only eleven years old. But the story of his life inspires me to never give up. My granddad was a remarkable man, because he fought in World War II and was able to overcome the struggles that many African-American men faced during that time period. My granddad is a hero to our family.

You see, my granddad went to a school that was approximately four miles from his house. The school that he attended was only a one-room building, which meant all grades were in the same class together. Also, he would have to walk to school every day, because there weren’t any school buses. My granddad wanted to go to school, but he did not have any money to help support his family. When he was in the third grade, he dropped out of school. He had to drop out, because he had to farm to help provide for his family. His dad had died at a very early age, so he had become the man of the house. At the time he dropped out of school, he couldn’t read or even write his name. He never returned to school, because he always had to work.

In 1941 the United States entered World War II. My granddad was drafted at the age of eighteen on November 6, 1942. Because of the fact that he couldn’t read or write his name, when it came time for him to fill out the draft papers for the U.S. Army, he had to sign his name with an “X.”

While he was in the army, he learned how to spell his name and read. He traveled to many different places, like Normandy (in northern France), Rhineland (now part of Germany), and other parts of Central Europe. When Granddad went to France, he learned how to speak French. That was a major thing for a black man to speak more than one language, especially since he had not learned how to read or write in the United States.

My granddad was in the segregated army. He was not allowed to fight beside the white soldiers. There were certain jobs he was not allowed to do while he was in the military.

He told his kids about having to dig foxholes1 and then sleep in them, even during the cold winters and the hot summers. But even with the conditions, he did learn to read and write before being discharged on September 24, 1945.

My granddad faced a lot of adversity in life. My aunts and uncles have always talked about how strict my granddad was with all of them. He taught them how to work hard, but most of all he taught them that an education was very important. Evidence of this is that out of eleven kids, over eighty percent of them have attended and graduated from college. I think that is amazing when as a young man my granddad didn’t even know how to read and write.

Sydney Lanier; North Carolina, USA


1. A foxhole is a shallow pit that provides some protection from enemy fire.



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