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That Ornery, Staff Sergeant, Violinist: John Milton Roebuck Senior
At five in the morning, when his wife was cooking breakfast, John Milton Roebuck Sr. started off his regular morning. He got up and shuffled down the hall to eat his homemade breakfast. Grasping the handle of his violin case, he went to go serenade his wife like he does every morning. Taking out his violin, he played a song that went rolling across the Oklahoma hills; a familiar sound to all of nature. As he played, he closed his eyes because a true musician never does need to see the notes to know the song.
Looking at this man, you would not expect him to be a hero of any sorts. You would perceive him as the usual country bumpkin; living in the hills and hunting for food. A hero, to popular belief, is someone who is known for their good deeds. It’s someone who has a life saving job or throws all risks over the edge to save someone’s life, becoming famous. A hero to me is someone who has good values and ethics and follows and uses them. They fight for what they believe in and follow the path God laid out for them. Looking at this man, you would not expect someone to have a Bronze Medal or a Purple Heart.
Born on July 10, 1915, John Milton Roebuck was raised at the turn of the century. Unfortunately, just because the times had changed, didn’t mean the people had changed. Since his parents were Choctaw, his father full and his mother half, they were chased out of the town and had to get a land plot from the Indian reserve in Oklahoma. Raised in a poor family in the hills of Oklahoma, he learned all your actions determined whether you would live the next month or not. John not only wanted to have the lifestyle of a farmer, but of a violinist. Since his family was so poor, he had to string up an old cigar box and nail a short board to it to play the violin.
At the age of five, his parents finally saved enough money to buy him a real violin form Madison’s Music Store. It was his pride and joy, and he was never seen anywhere without his violin in his left hand, and his bow in his right. Although they couldn’t afford lessons, John taught himself how to play the violin and read the music. Remembering this, John would say,” 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 years old, he was already playing in houses across the state to raise a little money. His skill grew and grew until he was playing for school and businesses. Five years later, John was playing for the Murray’s Music College dance. One of the administrators thought he was so good that they wanted him to study music there; regardless of the fact he had not finished high school. He studied there for a year and a half before he enlisted and was pulled off to war.
John did amazing things as a solider. One time was when him and his men were waiting to fly to Italy from Africa. He had gotten into a fight with the colonel, saying that just because he was a staff sergeant his men had fought just as well as he had, and they could go into the officer club if he could. That ended with him breaking the colonel’s nose, but he didn’t get suspended because they said they were short on men, and he was a real good solider. That was the value my great grandfather lived by; what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong, whether it’s against the law or not.
Another time was when he was awarded his Bronze Medal. It was July 15, 1944 and John Roebuck’s platoon was stuck in the heel of enemy territory. Communication severed, he decided to make a strategic maneuver to the top of the hill. Opening fire on the enemy camp below, killing many and making the rest fearfully retreat in confusion. John’s many heroic doings in the army are one too many to count and many untold.
When he finally got out of the war, John had suffered many injuries. He had been stabbed in the leg, shot in the shoulder, and had his right hand shot of at the wrist. Hanging on by a piece of skin, he had to have his hand grafted to his thigh so it would heal. The nurses told them he would have it amputated, but he said,” No way. If there is any chance I have to play the violin again, I’m talking it.” When he’d finally gotten out of the hospital, he only had his thumb and his index finger left, and was taking a bus to Oklahoma. At the bus stop he met a young girl who worked at the gas station. He made it a priority to take the bus everyday after that.
After a year, he finally gathered up the guts enough to ask her to marry him. Well, she said,” John, I have four kids.” He smiled and said,” That’s okay, I always wanted a family.” She sighed,” John, you know I lost a husband two years ago and I still love him. I like you John, but I don’t love you.” John responded,” That’s okay Peggy; I love you enough for the both of us.” They were married shortly married afterward.
Many years passed and John and Peggy had three more children, totaling in seven. As they grew, John decided to play for the Sunday church service. His daughter laughed as she remarked,” 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.” There even was a time when he said he thought the migrant workers needed some music, so he went east to California and became a worker himself. Everyday, he would play his violin to the migrant workers, giving them a beat to work to. Word of him spread through the state and a movie producer hired him as a pitman to play the background music for the movies.
Many years later, one of his children, Linda Roebuck decided to stay in Oklahoma and married Jack Bryant. They had three kids named Jason, Matt, and Nathan. Eleven years later, Jack died of pneumonia. At this time, it was still very hard for women to have a job and Linda was having no luck. Her father, John, went all the way across the state to take care of her and her boys at 78. If he hadn’t, I strongly doubt I would be here today.
On April 20, 1999, John Milton Roebuck Sr. died at 82. He was given a funeral service by the military and honorable discharge. Looking at this man now, it is obvious that he is a hero; the best there ever was. He made it through World War I, World War II, and the Depression. He raised seven kids; he always played the violin, even with most of his bow hand gone. Military wise, he earned a Purple Heart, Bronze Medal, and a European-African Middle Eastern Theatre Medal. He was still brave enough to marry the woman of his dreams even when she said no. John Roebuck is and will always be my hero. I know that every time I take out my violin, I’m playing for the bravest, best and the most ornery hero there ever was, John Milton Roebuck Sr.