Rachael Van Horn
Woodward, Okla. —
There are roughly 1/16th of the veterans alive today who served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II.
One of those brave men, Roy C. Best, was among those honored Friday afternoon during a Veteran's day program at the Early Childhood Center.
A group of well mannered and enthusiastic Pre-K students at ECC sang their hearts out and waved flags in honor of the day and the veterans who came to the program.
One tiny tot was Best's great-grandson, four-year-old Nash Best, who was a part of the program. Sitting behind the smiling Grandpa in the audience, was his grandson, Patrick Best of Woodward, Nash's father, who had brought his grandpa to the special celebration.
"I was impressed those little guys held it together for that long," Roy Best said of the tiny singers and their red, white and blue performance.
Best, 92, served in the U.S. Army from October of 1942 until December of 1945 in the Southwest Pacific theater, including Australia, Dutch New Guinea, The Philippines and Japan, he said.
Drafted while working for the Bank of America in California, the Oklahoma native found himself stomping around Camp Roberts, Calif. in combat boots.
During his 13 weeks of basic training at the Infantry Replacement Training Center, he found he was being prepared to go into battle.
Camp Roberts was opened in March of 1941, according to a publication called The Military Year Book Project. The large training camp on U.S. Highway 101 served the U.S. Army preparing soldiers in many different capacities through three wars and now still serves as a Army Reserve and National Guard training center.
Part way through his training at Camp Roberts, Best's Army leaders found out something remarkable him.
He could type.
"They were crying for clerk typists who were men," he said. "I remember thinking how glad I was that I took typing in high school."
Best graduated from May High School in 1938.
It was his education there that allowed him to perform all three years of his service during his time overseas, at the Division Headquarters Offices where ever his unit was stationed during the war, he said.
"The work I did was in the office and I didn't have to do guard duty or things like that," he said.
But the war wasn't a cake walk for the administrative specialist. He spent much of his time working on the side of administration that most wanted to avoid.
"I was in the Adjutant General Office working in the death reporting section," he said. " And when you are making a list of the KIAs (killed in action) and the MIAs (missing in action) and you come across a name you recognized, it gets to you."
Like any war though, Best also made friends and memories both, which live with him still today.
"But I've outlived most of my acquaintances the Army from that time," he said.
Today, Best is a dapper gentleman who talks about his life after the war in a thankful and humble way.
After leaving the service, Best came back to May and opened a service station, the remains of which is nothing but a cement slab on the curve as you drive through the small town now on U.S. 412, he said.
After opening the service station there with his brother's brother-in-law, Howard Wilson, it became clear to the one time banker, that someone was going to have to go to work to support the service station, Best said.
That was when Best secured his job working for the Bank of Woodward.
Shortly after, Best said he married his life-long sweetheart, Vera Nelle.
Vera served as well during World War II working as a riveter for North American Aircraft in Kansas City, Kan., Best said.
"She was Rosie the Riveter," he exclaimed.
The two recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary and if you look at Best's face when he talks about his bride, there's no question the two were meant for each other.
Now, Best says he spends his days taking care of Vera in their Woodward home. Vera Best wound up with a lung disease associated with asbestos from her work for the war effort, Best said.
Best is a spry old gentleman who isn't afraid to wear a flower for a special occasion, such as Veteran's day or talk about things that can make you cry.
Like the real men that came out of that particular war, he's not particularly afraid of death. But he also lived fully, in a manner that makes it obvious he wasn't afraid of life either.