Video: Guest Speaker Robert Max Relates his Experience as a Nazi Slave Laborer
NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Members of American Legion Post 433, their friends, family and a very special guest gathered in New Providence Monday for the annual “Eleventh Hour Service” to celebrate Veterans Day.
The guest was Robert R. Max, 96, who held the room spellbound, as he told the story of being captured by German soldiers, turned into a slave laborer for many months, how he escaped and his eventual rescue by American soldiers.
Post Commander Paul Dormont greeted the guests and reminded everyone that Veterans Day, which was originally called Armistice Day, commemorates the end of World War I, 101 years ago, when the Armistice at Compiègne, France was signed in 1918. Hostilities stopped at 11 a.m. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. In 1947, the name of the day was changed to Veterans Day, which became a federal holiday in 1954, under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Veterans Day is not the day to remember those who died, that’s Memorial Day. Dormont said, “Today is a day of recognition, celebration and thanks and not of mourning.” Rather it is a day to remember everyone who has served in the armed forces of the United States. “On this day, we share the feeling of appreciation for those who wore and still wear the uniform,” he said.
Dormont told the story of Staff Sgt. Bellavia, a Medal of Honor recipient, who was the "Iraq War’s first living recipient of the military’s highest award for valor,” because of his actions in Fallujah. After telling Bellavia’s story, he asked the audience how many stories of other contemporary military heroes “do we truly know?”
He then told the stories of Army Private First Class Monica Lin Brown, a combat medic, serving in Afghanistan and another story about the efforts of an American Legion Post 51 in Niles, Michigan, which reached out for people to attend the funeral of a Vietnam War Veteran who had no living relatives. “Three thousand people showed up to pay their respects,” he said.
He asked everyone to reach out to others who have “raised their right hand and pledged to give their life for their country,” and ask them to tell you their story.
Summit resident Robert Max then told his story, which he turned into a book, “The Long March Home: An American Soldier’s Life as a Nazi Slave Laborer,” which can be purchased online on Amazon and Barnes and Nobel, among other sites. His story is one he has told many times to students at schools throughout the area, and other groups. In the video below, he discusses how he survived the forced march he and others were subjected to, how he escaped and how he was rescued. When he was finally rescued, he spent 10 months in the hospital recovering.
Following Max’s presentation, there was a brief question and answer period, until the buffet line was opened. Local restaurants donated pizza, sloppy Joes, sausage and peppers, pasta, green salad, spicy chicken wings and more for the occasion. Members of the Lions Club served lunch and kept the coffee and tea hot. Desserts, which were plentiful and popular, were made by members of the New Providence Senior Citizens Club.
During lunch “The Cover Girls,” Kathy Martin and Mary Damato, sang American patriotic songs, as well as theme songs from each branch of the service, interspersed with songs such as “The Star Spangled Banner,’ ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thee’ and others.