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Veteran with 102 Years of African-American History

Portrait of an elderly African-American man

World War II Veteran George Boggess

by Regan E. Thornton, Office of Public Affairs, Washington, DC VA Medical Center
Monday, February 17, 2014

Army Veteran George Boggess is a man whose character has truly stood the test time. Celebrating his 102nd birthday on February 17, 2014, he is the oldest male resident of the Washington DC VA Medical Center’s Community Living Center.

Originally from Waco, Texas, Boggess moved to Washington D.C. in the fall of 1936 and hasn’t looked back. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942. That same year, he married Dorothy Marks, who is still by his side more than seven decades later.

Boggess was promoted to the rank of warrant officer in 1944, spending time at Fort Myer and Fort Meade, Virginia and Camps Kilmer and Fort Dix, N.J., before being deployed to help fight the war in Europe. Serving in England, France, Luxembourg and Germany, he was eventually stationed in the Belgium Forest during the Germany’s final assault at the “Battle of the Bulge.”

During this conflict, Boggess was hit by enemy fire and wounded in his right knee, but was back on the battle field only a couple of weeks later. His resilience did not go unnoticed. Boggess received the Purple Heart for being injured in the line of duty, as well as the Silver Star for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.

Two old black and white photos, one of an African American man in military uniform, the other of a bride with the same man

George and Dorothy Boggess

Segregation was a Way of Life

Growing up in Texas, Boggess was no stranger to discrimination. For him, segregation was a way of life. “I had no choice but to go to a black school…it was all I knew,” he remembers. Even in the face of adversity, Boggess continued to progress, earning his Masters in Social Work from Howard University and working for the government until retirement.

 There’s still so much to be done, especially for our young people. 

An avid supporter of civil rights, Boggess participated in several marches and was present for Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. When asked about the current state of African Americans in today’s society, he admits: “Generally speaking, it’s better. In theory, we can live where we want. In theory, we can work where we want. In theory, we can go where we want. But there’s still so much to be done, especially for our young people.”

So what’s Boggess’ secret to living a long life?

“Walking!” he declares, “‘Walking is man’s best medicine.”

African-American History Month

DID YOU KNOW? The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. For a definitive resource of every aspect of African-American History Month, you will want to visit this Library of Congress web site.

In a recent proclamation, another well-known African-American whose grandfather served in Patton’s army, said, “As we mark the 100th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ birth, we celebrate the life of a genuine American hero and remind ourselves that although the principle of equality has always been self-evident, it has never been self-executing. It has taken acts of courage from generations of fearless and hopeful Americans to make our country more just. As heirs to the progress won by those who came before us, let us pledge not only to honor their legacy, but also to take up their cause of perfecting our Union.” Read about his life here.