Vet honors his son, fallen comrades

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Victor Inge

The Selma Times-Journal

Where Robert Baker comes from the whole town used to come to the cemetery on Memorial Day.

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He’s wondering where the patriotism is today.

His hometown of Mapleton Depot, Penn., had a population of 800. His father was the only barber for 47 years.

Baker, 83, married his childhood sweetheart, Phyllis, and signed up for the Air Force right after they graduated from high school in 1943.

“We need to remember our veterans,” said Baker, who took part in the Veteran’s Day ceremony Monday at Memorial Stadium. “You assure that by participating and bringing the children out.”

Shot down over Germany on July 26, 1943, Baker was captured by Germans. A gunner aboard the B-17 crew of 10, Baker said three died and three were injured. He wound up in Stalag 17B, where he spent 22 months. His prison became famous after the movie about his camp starring William Holden won an Oscar.

“We weren’t tortured. We were mistreated, and were plagued by fleas and bedbugs. We made the best of a bad situation,” Baker recalled.

Baker is the father of Lt. Col. Bruce Baker, a 1981 graduate of Meadowview Christian, who is deployed in the Middle East.

The elder Baker wishes all the troops fighting overseas could feel the country’s united support.

Baker retired after 30 years in the Air Force, and recalls how Vietnam veterans were treated. He said he hoped America shows more support of their sons once this war is over.

“I grew up with a love of the flag,” Baker said. “The military is getting a bad rap from the media. Everybody rallied to defeat Hitler. Today we need to stand behind the President when he makes a decision. They’re going after them where they’re at.”

Baker said his faith is country is not shaken, and he’ll continue to pay his respects to America’s veterans.

“This country is choice. It’s special,” Baker said. “We’re the ones who stand up against the bullies of the world.”