There are three plaques behind Auburn Sims’ red leather chair. Two honor his service with the Calvary Baptist Church, the other contains words about God and courage. None of them, though, refer to his service for the nation.
Sims is one of the last of the Greatest Generation. The 99-year-old World War II veteran kept quiet about everything he saw for the majority of his life, but according to his daughter Roberta Duy, Sims began sharing his stories over the past few years.
Sims served in the United States Army and was drafted in 1943. He said he was one of the last men working in town since he was 23 with a wife and child, Duy.
In three days, Sims had his shots, uniform and orders to report to a bus station at 4 a.m., where he would be taken to Aberdeen, Maryland, and then to St. Louis.
“The bus came at 9 o’clock,” Sims said. “My first week of the army out there was just basic: eating, sleeping, what you’re going to do in the army.”
Six months later, he was taken to England. He took a boat across the channel to Paris, France, where he was set to protect the highway that transported resources to the front lines in France, Belgium and later Germany.
Duy said Sims was part of the unit that had to clear away some of the bodies left in ditches by the German army.
“Not very many people alive today have seen that,” Duy said.
Right before the end of the war in 1945, Sims received orders to go to Japan. He and about 700 other soldiers gathered on a boat and headed toward the island nation. A few days into the trip, though, the war was over and they turned around to dock in the Boston Harbor.
“I don’t have the vocabulary to tell you (what it was like),” Sims said. “If you ever saw a crowd of people...I don’t know what to say. They were crying, they were praying.”
He never returned overseas.
Duy said she feels the coming generations have the responsibility to teach their children the true history of the Holocaust. She also said when holidays like Independence, Memorial and Veterans Day roll around, it means that much more.
“I know what they went through to give us the freedom we have,” Duy said.