Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Freeman H. Sharp American Legion Post 70 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7061 will not be holding their Memorial Day ceremonies at the Colorado River Indian Tribes and Parker Cemeteries. However, they have honored a man for 51 years as a member of the American Legion: Robert “Bob” Drew.
Drew, 94, was recognized for his service from the American Legion National Commander, James W. "Bill" Oxford. The recognition came with a life-long paid membership in the Legion.
When he received his lifetime membership card May 11, Drew joked, “I don’t know how much longer I’ll be using this.”
T.J. Laffoon, Legion Post 70 Adjutant, said Drew was the sole surviving veteran of World War II at the post.
The following statement was issued by the Post concerning Drew:
Drew was born on May 21, 1926 in Derby, Conn. just in time for the great depression (1929-1939). He was in school from 1931-1944, attending grades K-12 grades in Connecticut. He graduated from South Kent High School in Bullsbridge, Conn. on June 2, 1944.
“That was when I was about to be drafted into the U.S. Armed Forces, but I received an extension of time to complete High School,” Drew said. “On June 8 was when I went to Selective Service office to enlist in the Navy or Air Force, but I was put in the U.S. Army, which later turned out to be a blessing!”
At the age of 18, after 14 weeks of basic training in the infantry, he left via ship for Britain and then France in mid-December 1944, almost 80 years ago. He arrived at a U.S. Replacement Depot in Metz, France and found himself by December 18, at the 90th Infantry Division under General Dwight Eisenhower. More specifically, his commander was General George S. Patton.
He was sent to the Ardennes forest, where the German army had started an offensive that would become known as the “Battle of the Bulge.” It was as shown in most news reports as a real bloody battle lasting until mid-January 1945.
Drew said he suffered frostbite on both legs and trench foot (known as 'jungle rot' in the Pacific) of the toenail tissue which causes problems to his nails to this day that require special attention by podiatrists. He feels very lucky to have survived combat with no major wounds.
He ended up at on V-E day, May 7, 1945, in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, after helping liberate the Flosenberg Concentration camp near the Czech border with Germany. He earned the rank of Corporal because he could speak some and understand some German. He served in the army of occupation until late 1946, at which time he came back stateside and was accepted via the G.I. Bill of Rights to Pennsylvania State University which he earned both a B.S. and M.S. in Agriculture.
Sometime after teaching service in high school, he attended University of Arizona in Tucson and earned a Master's Degree in Cultural Anthropology. He managed a 2-year Fulbright scholarship to teach modern Agriculture at a Junior College in the Cameroon, which is east of Nigeria in West Africa.
Drew to Parker with his wife Sheryl Drew and her sons. She later became a Reporter and Editor of The Parker Pioneer. Mr. Drew was a Public Health Educator for C.R.I.T., and the Ft. Mojave, Hualapai, and Havasupai Tribes, and Sherman Indian High School in Riverside, Calif. He retired from this position in 1983 and went to work for Arizona Western College in Parker as well as serving in the C.R.I.T. Substance Abuse Program.
Mr. Robert Drew has 51 years of service with the American Legion Post 70. He was recognized for his service from the Legion National Commander, James W. "Bill" Oxford. With this high honor, Robert Drew will receive a "Paid for Life Membership" in the American Legion. We like to take this time to recognize Mr. Robert Drew for his service, time, energy, and love for his country and community.
- Pioneer reporter John Gutekunst contributed to this story.