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WWII veteran holds memories of a distant war

John GardnerPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kelley Cox
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At the far end of a narrow driveway, leading to Carter Jackson’s ranch near Glenwood Springs, a weathered star-spangled banner hangs peacefully as the morning sun shines down on the valley.A testament to countless soldiers who have served the country.Like the 84-year-old World War II veteran who, like the flag, has witnessed humanity at its darkest hour and survived to see days so peaceful in the heart of the Roaring Fork Valley to justify the gloom.”There was a lot of uncertainty in those years,” Jackson said. “(Enlisting) was the thing to do. Most young people were jumping in. So I went to the draft board in town and signed up.”Jackson comes from a generation that grew up when the world was at war. The bombing of Pearl Harbor was still fresh in the minds of Americans two years later when he signed up. It was a very different time, a different generation, and a very different war.”Things are different now,” he said. “We didn’t challenge the government’s actions. If you were asked to serve, you just went.”A call of duty that Jackson answered.He was a medic’s aide and was assigned to the U.S. Third Army division headed by none other than “Old Blood and Guts,” General George S. Patton. It wasn’t long before he was shipped to the front lines, where he was captured by the Germans in 1944.”When we drove into the town they started firing at us,” he said, directly.

Jackson, along with 11 other soldiers, was sent to a neighboring village shortly after crossing the Rhine River in France. The village was reported to be under American control, but to his and the others’ surprise it wasn’t.Being a medic Jackson wasn’t even armed.”We could see that there was no hope,” he said. “We waved the white flag and the Germans came walking towards us.”Those Germans were killed by two American soldiers who’d managed to take cover in some nearby trees. A brief moment of victory. But Jackson and the others were pinned in a drainage ditch looking down the barrel of a German tank. From there the scene took a turn for the worse.He still remembers the fear only a POW could know, and he remembers it well more than 60 years later.”(Death) sure entered our minds,” Jackson said.His gaze locked in thought as he remembered.”It’s something you’ll never forget,” he said clasping his hands.The memories are harsh.He watched as one of the American soldiers was beaten with a length of chain, blood running down his face.

“If they killed him, I don’t know,” Jackson said. “It was pretty scary.”He recalled marching from France to what was then Czechoslovakia with about 40 other prisoners. They were corralled through villages where they were spit on and yelled at by residents.In all, Jackson spent a little over two months in captivity. Until one fateful night where he felt his heart nearly stop.”I thought, ‘This is it’,” he said.Jackson and a few others managed to separate themselves while the rest of the group was asleep one night. They spent a couple of days without food and water before a Czechoslovakian woman, Marie Zakowa, shone a light in their face.It turned out she was an ally.”She was a wonderful lady,” he said. “She was a part of the Czech resistance. It was very welcomed when she showed up in the middle of the night.”Zakowa took Jackson and the others to the small town of Kdyne, near Prague, where she and other residents fed and took care of them for a couple of days. Jackson weighed less than 100 pounds.”We were never tortured,” he said of his captivity. “We walked a lot of miles and lost a lot of weight. It only lasted a couple of months, nothing like so many others have been through.”



Seeing an American flag upon a soldier’s uniform in that remote town near Prague, near the end of the war in 1945, raised Jackson’s hopes of his return home.His war was over.Jackson made a nice life in the valley as a veterinarian and raising cattle at his Jackson Flats Ranch between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. He and his wife Louise have four daughters and seven granddaughters.Each morning, when the sun rises and illuminates the flag upon his fence, Jackson, too, rises and tends his cattle.It’s a life he fought for, a life deserved.Contact John Gardner: 384-9114jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO


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