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Service & Sacrifice: New Revelations in life of Knoxville WWII Hero

After standing up to Nazis in World War II and saving dozens of Jewish soldiers, a Knoxville soldier went on to join the fight in Korea.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — A first-time meeting between the son of a WWII hero and a veteran who served with his dad in Korea is offering a new chapter in the life of Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds.

“I guess he (Master Sgt. Edmonds) was probably in his thirties by that time…and it had been six years since he had the POW (Prisoner of War) experience,” said Earl Ratledge sitting on the couch with, Chris Edmonds.  His father went from serving in World War II to the fight in Korea.

After seeing a story about Master Sergeant Edmonds’s heroic stand in the face of Nazi prison guards, and then a recent tweet by President Donald Trump saying he is seriously considering Edmonds for one the nation’s highest awards, Ratledge reached out to WBIR-TV.  

We connected the 95-year-old veteran with Pastor Chris Edmonds who recently published a book about his father. 

RELATED: Service & Sacrifice: WWII prisoner from Knoxville defied Nazis 75 years ago

RELATED: President Trump 'strongly' looking at bill that would honor Knoxville WWII veteran with Congressional Gold Medal

Here is just one exchange between to two sitting on the couch in the South Knoxville home of Mr. Ratledge.

Credit: john becker

“I’ve had the privilege of meeting a lot of great heroes like you,” said Pastor Edmonds.

“Well, I’m no hero,” responded Mr. Ratledge.

“You put that uniform on, you are a hero,” said Pastor Edmonds.

In addition to our on-camera interview, and the account from Mr. Ratledge about his exchanges with Master Sgt. Edmonds in Korea, we learn the following 10 answers to questions about the impact Mr. Ratledge’s service in the Army had on the rest of his life.

1.  What one person influenced you most in life?

Probably a Presbyterian preacher also high school teacher.  Horace Lillard in Blount County was also a basketball coach.  One of his sons was in Korea and killed after I got back.  His work as a minister had a big impact on me.

2.  Do you feel honored and respected for serving your country?

Absolutely. I mentioned one time the biggest honor the Army offered me was a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant. I declined as I was to get out of the Army back to the USA in four months. We were welcomed home.

3.  How can people thank you for your service?

They thank me all the time.  I think it is wonderful.  The South Korean community goes out of their way to show honor and appreciation for our service.  “Thank you for your service” means a lot.

4.  How do you honor your fellow service men and women?

I honor them by flying the flag and standing and saluting it.  Also, I helped form the new Korean War veterans group in Knoxville and we thank each other for our service.

5.  How do you think this generation of military men and women is different or similar to yours?

I think there are a lot of similarities. The soldiers are more educated and may be in better physical shape.  I think they are willing to go serve their country the same way we did.

6.  What influence did your military service have on the rest of your life?

I don’t know.  I was born and raised on a farm and we were pretty well disciplined and worked hard all our lives. The service didn’t affect me in that way because I was already disciplined.

7.  Does your family have a history of military service?

My great grandfather served in the Union Army. He was from East Tennessee.  I also have a nephew who graduated from UT and decided to go into the Air Force.  He flew and observation plane in Korea and stayed 22 years and made Lieutenant Colonel.

8.  Would you encourage younger generations in your family to join the service?

I’m thinking that has to be determined by them. It has a lot of opportunities but then you have to fight a war now and then. You’ve got to be dedicated to the fact that that possibility is out there. That risk up to them.

9.  How has your opinion of war changed?

I don’t know that it has changed that much. In World War II I was in high school.  I think war is the most terrible thing that human beings inflict on each other.  There are times when you have to fight for and defend freedom.

10.  How did your military experience shape your faith?

I guess you would say it deepened it. My faith elevated to a higher degree.  It pulled me along every day. I could sleep well night.

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