President Obama is visiting Buchenwald today. And it reminded me of a hero I never knew about. A true American hero. Someone who never asked to be one. This is the life of James Hoyt and Buchenwald…
You know me. I get pretty worked up about some politician out there and their gang of cronies. They just don’t measure up. They don’t honor those who sacrificed for this country called the US of A. They are nothing compared to true American heroes. They don’t deserve to even stand in their shade. They dance on the graves of those who truly sacrificed for this country. And they dishonor those who saw the best and the worst in the name of America.
I am not from here. I am just visiting. But I want to tell you a bit about a true American hero. And maybe you’ll understand why I think this country has something going for it. And why I get so pissed at some people out there. People who forget what it means to be true heroes. People who forget who the true Americans really are. People who just disrespect the meaning of being American.
James Hoyt was born in Oxford (Iowa) on 16 May 1925. The son of a railroad worker and a schoolteacher. He died in Oxford on 11 August 2008. Oxford is a small little town. About 700 people. And he lived their his whole life. Well, almost his whole life. He once went overseas.
He ranked his greatest achievement as being the Johnson County spelling bee champ in 1939 when he was in eighth grade. He remembered the word he had to spell – “archive”. It’s apt that it means “a collection of historic documents”. Some things should just never be forgotten. Like Mr. Jame Hoyt.
Mr Hoyt was a mail carrier. James Hoyt delivered mail for 30 years in Oxford. He retired in 1992. He worked until he was almost 70. Just a normal guy. Delivering post in little Oxford, Iowa. The furthest he ever got was was Des Moines. The furthest that is, until he went overseas.
James Francis Hoyt Sr. came back to Oxford after his overseas trip and married Doris. Or as he called her, “She’s the love of my life”. They had six children. They lived a happy and loving life together.
James, or Jim as his friends called him, didn’t talk much about his overseas trip. Even those who knew him for many years didn’t know about his trip. But every week he would go to meet his little group. You see, Mr. Hoyt went to group therapy each and every week. Because James suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. All because he went on a trip to Europe.
James went to Europe because of war. James was in WWII. And James was one of the four U.S. soldiers to first see Germany’s Buchenwald concentration camp. With him goes a piece of history. A memory we will never be able to hear from again. He was the last of the four to pass away.
He hardly spoke about that day in 1945. Partly because James was a humble man from a small town in Iowa. But also because of what he saw. “There were thousands of bodies piled high. I saw hearts that had been taken from live people in medical experiments. They said a wife of one of the SS officers — they called her the Bitch of Buchenwald — saw a tattoo she liked on the arm of a prisoner, and had the skin made into a lampshade. I saw that.” He saw a lampshade made from a prisoner’s tattoo…
James didn’t like to talk about what he saw when he was 19.
“Seeing these things, it changes you. I was a kid,” he said.
And then there was the dreams. “I still have horrific dreams. Usually someone needs help and I can’t help them. I’m in a situation where I’m trapped and I can’t get out.”
James Francis Hoyt Sr. was a true American hero. Someone who loved his country. Someone who had nightmares for his country. And someone who kept quiet, loved his family and delivered the post for 30 years. James Francis Hoyt Sr. is a hero.
R.I.P. Mr. Hoyt. I hope you also saw the faces of the prisoners you met that day. Starving and dying and almost beaten and tortured to death. But when they saw you Mr. Hoyt… Oh, when they saw you. Their bodies ravished by the hunger and the pain. But they lifted you up. High up in the air. Throwing you up into the air. Again and again. Because you where there Mr. Hoyt. You came for them Mr. Hoyt. Like you, they never forgot that day. They to had nightmares of those days. But not of that day. That day is the day of dreams come true. Of happiness. Of liberation. I hope you can now see your face in their dreams Mr. Hoyt. The face of a hero. A true American hero. Your life was the life they were waiting for.
I leave you with these words from Retired Gen. Robert Sentman…
“When the prisoners saw Jim, they picked him up and threw him in the air, that’s how happy they were after seeing such horrors. Prisoners had been hung from hooks to die. He saw a lampshade made from a prisoner’s tattoo. Jim carried those horrors with him forever. He never got what he had seen out of his mind. If you ever wondered about Jim, think about what he saw.”
“When you were discharged, no one really gave a hoot about you. It was difficult for a compassionate person like Jim to forget what he saw. He was a hero.”
R.I.P. James Francis Hoyt. Sweet dreams Jim. We will never forget.
Note: Only two news agencies reported on the death of James Francis Hoyt Sr. Ask yourself. How many of the news stories you heard this week will you remember in 63 years time? Thank you to CNN for remembering – I used their report a lot and dug around a bit more to find some additional info on Mr. Hoyt and Buchenwald.
I couldn’t bring myself to post more photo’s of Buchenwald. It is too horrid for this blog. But do yourself a favor – go do a few image searches and see what Jim saw when he was 19 and lived with for more than 60 years.