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John Milton Roebuck MAG
At five in the morning, as his wife cooked breakfast, John Milton Roebuck Sr. began his morning. He got up and shuffled down the hall. Taking out his violin, he serenaded his wife as he did every morning, playing a song that went rolling across the Oklahoma hills. As he played, he closed his eyes because this true musician never needed to see the notes.
Looking at this man, you would not expect him to be a hero of any sorts. You would see him as the usual country bumpkin, living in the hills and hunting for food. A hero, to most, is someone who is known for good deeds, someone who has a life-saving job or ignores all risks to save others, thus becoming famous. A hero to me is someone who has good values and ethics and uses them. They fight for what they believe in and follow the path God has laid out for them. Looking at this man, you would not expect him to have a Bronze Medal or a Purple Heart.
Born July 10, 1915, John Milton Roebuck's parents were Choctaw, his father full and his mother half. Unfortunately they were chased out of their town and settled on the Native American reservation in Oklahoma. Raised in this poor family in the hills of Oklahoma, John learned that his actions determined whether or not he would live to the next month. John not only wanted to be a farmer, but also a violinist. Since his family was poor, he strung up an old cigar box and nailed a short board to it to make a crude violin.
Eventually John's parents saved enough money to buy him a real violin, which was his pride and joy. He never went anywhere without it. Since his family couldn't afford lessons, John taught himself. Remembering this, John said, “Sure, private lessons would've helped, but you have to have the musician inside you before you even rosin up that bow.”
When he was 14, John was already playing across the state to raise money. At 19, John played for the Murray's Music College dance. One of the administrators thought he was so good that they wanted him to study music there, despite the fact that he had not finished high school. John studied there for a year and a half before he enlisted and was shipped off to war.
John did amazing things as a soldier. One time he got into a fight with a colonel, saying that his men had fought just as well as he had and they should be allowed into the officer's club with him. Despite breaking the colonel's nose, John wasn't suspended because they were short on soldiers and he was a great one. My great-grandfather lived by the principle that what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong, whether it's against the law or not.
John was awarded the Bronze Medal because on July 15, 1944, his platoon was stuck in enemy territory. With communications severed, John decided to make a strategic maneuver to the top of the hill. His platoon opened fire on the enemy camp below, causing a retreat. John's heroic deeds are too many to count, with more stories left untold.
During the war, John suffered a number of injuries. He was stabbed in the leg, shot in the shoulder, and had his right hand shot. The nurses said he would have to have it amputated, but he said, “No way. If I have any chance of playing the violin again, I'm taking it.” When he finally got out of the hospital, he only had his thumb and index finger.
On his way home, John met a young woman at the bus stop. He made it a priority to take the bus every day after that. After a year, he finally got the nerve to ask her to marry him. She said, “John, I have four kids.”
He smiled and replied, “That's okay. I always wanted a family.”
“I lost my husband two years ago and I still love him,” she said. “I like you, John, but I don't love you.”
He responded, “That's okay, Peggy, I love you enough for the both of us.” They married soon after.
John and Peggy had three more children together. John would play the music for the Sunday church service. His daughter recalls, “He was so ornery, he would start playing jazz on the piano right in the middle of a really religious song. He always stopped though when the pastor shot him a look.”
John thought the migrant workers needed music, so he went to California and became a worker himself and every day played his violin. Word spread through the state, and a movie producer hired John to play background music for movies.
Years later, his daughter Linda married Jack Bryant. They had three children, but then Jack died of pneumonia. She had no luck finding a job, so her 78-year-old father came to care for her and her boys. If he hadn't, I wonder if I would be here today.