Thumbs up for the life and legacy of World War II veteran George Rogers, who died Aug. 17 at the age of 100 at his Lynchburg-area home.
Rogers spent more than three years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Joining the U.S. military at the age of 22, he was captured when the U.S. surrendered the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines to the Japanese in 1942. He survived the notorious Bataan Death March the Japanese forced more than 75,000 Filipino and American troops to endure. Trudging more than 65 miles to prison camps, under horrendous conditions, thousands died or were killed along the way.
But not Rogers.
In 1945, when he returned to America, he weighed a mere 85 pounds. Doctors told him he would likely never have children, keep all his teeth or live past the age of 45. Three years of meager rations and cruel beatings inflicted on the prisoners by their Japanese guards took their toll on Rogers, but they never broke him physically or, more importantly, spiritually.
As he was preparing to return to Japan for a visit organized by the Japanese government in 2015, Rogers did an interview with The News & Advance. Almost unbelievably, he said in that interview that he harbored “no hard feelings” toward the Japanese. “They weren’t animals.”
From 1974 until his retirement in 2000, Rogers served as the chief financial officer of Liberty University. According to LU President Jerry Falwell Jr., Rogers quickly developed a reputation as being, well, tight with the pennies, earning him the nickname “Mr. No.”
He was also a regular attendee at the Monument Terrace troop rally that’s taken place every Friday, rain or shine, since just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A strong supporter of the Lynchburg Area Veterans Council, he was the grand marshal of the 2017 Veterans Day parade.
Steve Bozeman, vice president of the veterans council, is a veteran of the Vietnam War. Speaking with The News & Advance, Bozeman said, “He was my local hero. He was a mentor to me and a person I really looked up to. I would have to say if I could be anyone else, I would be him.”
Rogers’ funeral will be held at 1 p.m. today at Thomas Road Baptist Church. Central Virginia won’t be quite the same without him.
From “Taps”: Go to sleep, Peaceful sleep/May the Soldier or Sailor, God keep. / On the land or the deep, Safe in sleep.
In the Aug. 24 editorial, “Checking Up ... Honoring the legacy of a WWII hero,” Vietnam War veteran Steve Bozeman was incorrectly identified as a POW. We regret the error.