Local WWII POW to be Honored during DDay 70th Anniversary Film S - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

Local WWII POW to be Honored during DDay 70th Anniversary Film Showing

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BELTON, TX - (KCEN) – Freedom is definitely not free: it’s a simple phrase WWII veteran Robert Bearden has lived by for the last 70 years. But it’s not just a string of words thrown together, no, for Robert it has true meaning. For more than half a year his freedoms were taken away as a prisoner of war by the Nazis.

“It’s when a whole new era in my life began,” Robert said. “You learn that your life is not your own, but that it belongs to the guards around you.”

On June 6, 1944, 21-year-old Robert found himself crowded among a dozen other soldiers with their parachutes strapped on tight. He made the jump, landing on the beaches of Normandy for the famous D Day invasion to liberate northern France from Nazi control.

Robert’s plane was one of the last to arrive. “By the time we got there the Germans were really ready,” he said. “Many times people standing right next to me were dead… killed, when I was able to walk away.”

Almost instantly Robert was shot in the hand and near his ear, but he kept fighting. Thousands died in just one day. “I think we became immune to the tragedy, in losing your good friends, your best friends,” he said. “They were like brothers to me.”

After five relentless days of fighting, Robert was captured by Nazi forces and taken prisoner. He and other POWs were loaded into German box cars like cargo and shipped to a prison near Burlin. “That was the most horrifying experience of my time in Europe was sitting in those box cars,” Robert said.

Those cars, and freight trains were used to haul German weapons and were major targets of U.S. bomber pilots who had no idea their own men were trapped inside.

For seven months, Robert was a prisoner behind enemy lines – not knowing if he would live to see his family again. A birthday passed by, and pounds faded away. When Russian forces liberated his prison on January 31st 1945, Robert was a fragile 98 pounds.

He was then left to fend for himself and find his way back to U.S. forces. “I just wandered around as really… a blessed man,” he paused. “I think I was blessed to get out of there.”

But his journey wasn’t over. Traveling with no direction, no knowledge of the history or geography of the land, he wandered thousands of miles for three months before finding his way back to the U. S.

“I called my sister, and she had gone through a full pregnancy. I heard little John cry and I stood in the phone booth weeping tears of joy in New York, it was fantastic,” he said.

D Day was a major turning point in WWII, pushing Germany out of France. But it was also a turning point for Robert. Having his own freedoms ripped away, seeing his brothers dead on the battle field, and countless men storming the beaches toward enemy fire … Robert stands by his life’s motto “Freedom is definitely not free”, and even at 91-years-old he will continue living life to the fullest to honor those who couldn’t.

Friday marks 70th anniversary of D Day, and Robert will be honored after a showing of “D Day” 3-D at the IMAX theater in Austin’s Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. He will then take part in a panel discussion about his time during the invasion and life as POW. To find out more about the film, and how to get tickets (click here).

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