Monday, February 4, 2013
Linda’s father, Odis Cain, was born into a family of farmers in Appling County, Georgia in 1921. He was the second boy of nine children, and likely carried a large share of the workload on their portion of the family farm.
Odis and his siblings attended a small, rural school, in this Southern Georgia County. Unfortunately, at that time educational standards were lacking, and even though he attended school for many years he was only able to attain a second grade education. Granddaddy related years later to his daughter, Carol, that the schoolteacher didn’t like him and basically just ignored him in favor of the other students, refusing to promote him. This likely made Odis’s early life difficult, and probably played a factor in his decision to continue the farming tradition.
Odis’s grandfather had migrated to Georgia from Bladen County, North Carolina during the late 1800’s. North Carolina must have been in the family blood, though, because sometime between 1935 and 1940 Odis’s older sister and her husband had returned to Bladen County, Odis not far behind.
It’s unclear exactly why Granddaddy left Georgia – rumors fly, but the truth may never be known. However, once there he began working on a farm, possibly working with his brother-in-law who was a share cropper. Eventually Granddaddy met Ruth Russ and settled down to start a family and a farm. Unfortunately, the world disrupted this simple farmer’s life.
Grandaddy was drafted into the U.S. Army, and his service began in November of 1942, a year after marrying Ruth. He entered the Army at Fort Bragg, North Carolina as a part of the 394th Regiment of the 99th Division of the Infantry. The division stayed stateside until September, 1944, when they were deployed to the European Theater. This Division was nicknamed the “Battle Babies” due to their lack of combat experience. They weren’t considered babies for long, however, as the unit played a pivotal roll in the Battle of the Bulge. This is where Granddaddy was taken a prisoner of war.
Somewhere around December 19, 1944, he was captured by the Germans. He and other prisoners were eventually transported to Stalag IV-B Mühlberg, Germany. He was repatriated three months later, and discharged from the Army at Fort Lewis, Washington, in November of 1945. This time of his life was a rare topic at home for nearly fifty years.
Settling into civilian life was difficult for Grandaddy. He had missed not only the birth of his oldest child, but was also not a part of her home life for most of her first three years. Eventually, however, they became a family again, and he became a tenant farmer in North Carolina. The family crop was tobacco, and like Odis himself, his children carried a portion of the workload before and after school. Tobacco was a part of Odis’s life; he even has a niece who recalls him making paper wreathes out of folded Lucky Strike cigarette packs.
During the Winter months Granddaddy drove a truck relaying newspapers from Charlotte to Southeastern North Carolina. Eventually he accepted a job driving the first leg from Charlotte, and moved his family there.
His time in the Army was beneficial to his education, and he eventually enrolled in math courses at a Charlotte area school. He received training as a welder and got a job at Wilmat making small machinery parts, following the company to Bessemer City when it was relocated.
Grandaddy remained in the Gastonia area for the remainder of his life, raising grapes and spending time with his grandchildren on his side porch or rocking in his chair in his living room.
Granddaddy once told his great grandson that he didn’t consider himself a hero – he had a job to do in Europe, and he did it. But to us, and to millions of Americans, he was a hero. And the fact that he didn’t wear the hat of a hero makes him a hero all the more.
Granddaddy passed away in 2005. And he is missed.
Your sacrifices are not forgotten.