This week KCBD would like to honor World War II veteran Charles Odell Sears as our "Hometown Hero." In 1942, this 89-year-old veteran graduated from Gomez High School, just miles from Brownfield. Less than a year later, he was drafted into the U.S. Army.
"I was one of the first 18-year-olds when they went to drafting. I got my call in December of 1942," Odell Sears said.
Sitting in his living room chair wearing his old U.S. Army jacket and hat, Odell shared his stories of WWII - starting at the beginning with the intense training.
"We about froze to death. We had one boy crying for his momma - they finally sent him home," Odell chuckled.
From the cold to desert like conditions, Odell went through it all. "We were about 25 miles from Phoenix, Arizona. There wasn't anything out there that didn't bite you, sting you or stick you."
His battalion was later converted to a top secret outfit, where the tanks used special lighting meant to confuse the enemy.
As he told his stories, he held a knife given to him by an army buddy. "I let Schmit have my money so he could go home. His daddy was a machinist and made me this knife. I carried it on my belt all during combat," he said.
In July of 1944 Odell was on his way to Europe as a tank driver in the 739th Tank Battalion. "We were on a ship for 13 days, and 13 nights. About two hours being on there I was seasick the rest of the way," he said.
While overseas, Odell went face to face with his enemies during the Battle of the Bulge, Adrennes, and Rhineland. "I never did have much fear. I just figured if the Lord didn't take care of me, I was going to get killed," Odell said.
It wasn't until right before the war was about to end when Odell was shot.
"The medics came by and stopped the bleeding in my groin," he said.
Odell was accidentally shot by friendly fire when a pistol fell to the ground and discharged. "When I was laying there five and a half hours not knowing if the Germans would get me or the Americans, I promised the Lord I'd come home and I'd serve him the rest of my life, and I have tried to do that," Odell said.
The bullet is still lodged in his groin, and Odell was awarded the Purple Heart for his injuries. He turned it down, feeling he didn't earn it.
By the time his wound healed, the Germans had surrendered. Half way across the ocean as he returned home, the atomic bomb was dropped and World War II was officially over.
"I got discharged November 29th, 1945. I came home, got married December 15th and I've been in battle ever since," Odell laughed, glancing at his high school sweetheart and the love of his life for the last 66 years.
"I suppose he still is," said Louise Sears, his wife. The two bickered playfully while Odell told his stories.
"This is the Bible they gave us when you enlist," Odell held up a small pocket Bible with a metal cover. "I sent it to you!" Louise fired back. "There's an inscription in it that I did give it to him," she added. "You carry it over your heart in combat in case you get shot."
While Odell is still on the front lines of his second war with his loving wife, Odell and his family travel each year to Louisiana to visit his buddies from his first war.
"We go and meet his Tank Battalion friends from Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma. It's really neat listening to all their stories," said Susan Roberts, Odell's daughter. "We're losing WWII vets every day. I think everybody should listen to a WWII vet, listen to their stories. We're proud of him, he's our hero, and he's a hero from the greatest generation," Susan said.
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