With the number of World War II veterans dwindling as the years pass, I was excited to meet former Sgt. Bob Bearden.
Bearden, a paratrooper who fought on D-Day, June 6, 1944, was captured by the Germans days after jumping over France with the 82nd Airborne Division’s H Company, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment. For seven months, he was a prisoner of war.
The first time I met him was during a wreath-laying ceremony Dec. 15 at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery. It was one of the few days in December that was actually cold, and after already sitting outside for quite some time, his wife, Debbie Bearden, wanted to get him to warmth.
Despite their hurry, I got to speak with the 90-year-old veteran for a few minutes. And, I’m glad I did.
Bearden is an adorable “old” man, full of life and love. He’s the kind of person everyone wishes they had as a grandpa.
I interviewed Bearden again in January before he received the French Legion of Honor, which recognized him for his contribution to the liberation of France during the war.
This time, we talked for hours. Despite the unimaginable situations Bearden faced, there was a sense of hope for humanity in his voice when he described in detail his harrowing experience.
As a former POW, Debbie Bearden said, her husband could either be bitter or better.
“He chose better,” she said. “He’s appreciative and grateful for life now. (Problems) are not a big deal to him. If I’m going nuts because the tire’s flat or something, he says, ‘At least we’re not being shot at.’”
When the weather is nice, Bearden sits on his front porch and takes in the beauty of nature.
“He’ll say things like, ‘Look at these flowers that the Lord made for us to look at,’” his wife said.
His latest fascination is butterflies.
“I look at a butterfly and I want to say ‘Come here and tell me why did you stop on that flower?’” Bob Bearden said. “I watch them as they just lay here and that just tickles me to death to think they know exactly what they’re doing. They’re eating and every little one of those flowers they lay on, they know exactly which ones have the most nourishment. It’s me that’s not really informed.”
From a simple meal to washing and folding laundry, Debbie Bearden said her husband thanks her for every little thing.
“People really don’t have much to complain about,” he said. “We’re very blessed.”