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December 2019
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“If you just sit around, you’ll die,” says 100-year-old Roy Hughes

No. 1

 

Proudly wearing his veteran's cap, Roy Hughes recently celebrated his 100th birthday. The World War II veteran was awarded six Bronze Stars during his service.

 

By Larry Cavender

Progress contributor

 

Birthdays are a common occurrence, obviously, because everyone has one every year. However, a local veteran recently celebrated a birthday that, literally, happens only once in a century.

On Wednesday, Oct. 30th, Roy Hughes celebrated his 100th birthday at a party held for him at the Pickens County Senior Center in Jasper. When asked to what he attributes his longevity, he replied, "Get up. Get out. Get involved. Because if you just sit around, you'll die." He added, "I nearly lost it when I lost my wife." 

Ethel, his wife of more than 60 years, passed away in 2005. Eventually, after a period of mourning, Roy decided to "get out," so he began getting involved in the community and visiting with friends and neighbors.

A native of Oklahoma, Hughes came to this area because of his family. After moving to Texas for a few years to live with one of his daughters, eventually all of his children ended up residing in north Georgia. His two daughters, Marilyn and Carolyn, both live in Canton, and his son, Roy, Jr., resides in Ellijay. He also has four grandchildren.

Roy Hughes is a true survivor. Not only has he survived 100 years of life, he also survived serious injuries and narrowly escaped death during World War II that resulted in his being awarded two Purple Hearts. A member of the 45th Infantry Division and veteran of the fighting in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, and Germany, he was wounded twice while serving in Italy.

Hughes was first wounded shortly after the amphibious landings at Salerno receiving wounds to his left leg and back. Shrapnel from those back wounds penetrated his lungs and remains there to this day. He was so seriously wounded, medics gave him up as "a goner" and placed him with a group that included several soldiers critically wounded with life-threatening injuries as well as with several others who had already died.

But, Roy Hughes did survive. After recuperating in a Tripoli, North Africa hospital, he was eventually ordered back to frontline duty, this time in Anzio. He was wounded again after being shot while coming to the aid of a wounded brother-in-arms, dragging him out of harm’s way to a nearby foxhole. Bleeding profusely from his own wounds, a medic advised him to move back to a field hospital. Hughes remembered he was told, "You've got to go to the field hospital to get a Purple Heart." At first, Hughes refused, and answered, "I got one Purple Heart already. I don't need another."

Hughes survived those injuries as well, and was eventually involved in the liberation of Rome, which happened on June 5, 1944, only one day before D-Day in Normandy. By mid-August 1944, he also found himself in France after participating in yet another of his many amphibious landings, this one known as Operation Dragoon on the beaches of southern France near Saint-Tropez.

His division fought northward, eventually joining up with George Patton’s Third Army in preparation for the invasion of Germany. Rising to the rank of Master Sergeant, incredibly, Hughes was awarded six Bronze Stars before V-E Day found him in service near Munich, Germany.

Hughes has become a frequent fixture at the Pickens Senior Center, and during his birthday party, many well-wishers paid their respects including a contingent of local Freedom Riders. All three of his children were also there and they presented him with an American Flag that flew over our nation's capital procured by Senator Johnny Isakson, a fitting tribute to true survivor and American hero, Roy Hughes.