NOTE: This was originally written in March of 2022 as Russia invaded Ukraine.
As we witness the bravery of the people of the Ukraine defending their homeland, I thought recently of our Past Master Randy Thomas( September 14, 1927 to April 4, 2013) and a story he shared about his service.
June 2, 2011 WB Ryan Work had arranged for ap program from our RWB William F. Harvey to share about his recent visit to Normandy. RWB Harvey’s uncle had participated in the landing and RWB Harvey had gone on the trip to following in his uncle’s footsteps. It was a great program and WB Work asked if there were any questions before we closed.
The hour had drawn late and Guapos was beckoning when WB Thomas stood up in the north east corner. WB Ryan Work recognized WB Thomas and WB Thomas started off by saying: “I know some people doubt if the holocaust happened.” He captured everyone’s attention because we were unsure where he was going to go with this. He cleared his throat and you could see he was a bit choked up: “It did, I saw it with my own two eyes.”
WB Thomas related how he and his Army Company (Company H, 328th Infantry Regiment, 26th Division under General George S. Patton) had come to a concentration camp. We believe it was the Gusen Camp which was a sub camp of the Mauthausen camp . WB Thomas described how the people in the camp were “just skin and bones.” I remember him saying they did not even look like people. He and a group of soldiers had to go into the town to find food to give these people. WB Thomas recounted he went to the bakery shop and began to collect bread to bring back to the camp. The woman argued with him in broken English that if the American soldiers took the bread, what would she eat?” WB Thomas said he told her he needed the bread for the prisoners, and that was it. They took the bread back and the prisoners were so grateful for it. WB Thomas finished saying “Don’t’ let anyone tell you the holocaust didn’t happen.” You could hear a pin drop after he spoke. All of us knew he was a veteran, none of us knew he had liberated the camp.
That was who WB Thomas was. He had a reliance on faith and he did what he knew he was right. I was later told that he lied about his age so he could enlist in the Army. It was probably the only lie that WB Thomas ever told in his life.
How lucky are we to call a man such as this, our brother and friend?
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