State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is partnering with the Georgetown American Legion to honor World War II veteran Charlie Dukes this week as a part of Illinois’ bicentennial celebration.
Dukes is one of the recipients of the Bicentennial HONOR 200, which honors the work of 200 veterans who continue to make extraordinary contributions to the people of Illinois. The event will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15 at the Georgetown American Legion Dornblaser Post 203 at 106 E West St.
“Our country and our state are great because of the sacrifices our veterans have made,” Bennett said. “Charlie’s courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty played a significant role during World War II, and I am truly honored to serve as his State Senator. I can’t thank him enough for the personal sacrifices he has made to preserve our freedom and to keep us safe.”
Recipients of the Bicentennial HONOR 200 award were recognized at the state’s official 200th birthday celebration at the United Center in Chicago on Monday, Dec. 3, but due to difficulties with traveling, Dukes could not attend.
“I encourage everyone to join us to honor Charlie and his family this weekend,” Bennett said. “It’s a terrific opportunity to express your gratitude and meet a local hero who has done so much for our community.”
Dukes enlisted in the Army in October 1943, and he was shipped overseas 80 days after D-day, entering battle in the Cherbourg Peninsula. He fought through Belgium, Holland and Germany. He was captured on Nov. 23, 1944 and spent six months as a prisoner of war of both the Germans and the Russians.
He escaped from captivity only to be recaptured before escaping once again. He cut the bottom two rows of barbed wire fencing around the camp and crawled across mine fields to freedom.
After his honorable discharge from the Army, he finished college and returned to his home town of Georgetown. There, he married his college sweetheart, Gracie Schwab, and they raised their four children. He also wrote a book called “Good Morning, but the Nightmares Never End,” which chronicled his experiences as an infantryman on the front lines of the War and as a prisoner of war.
Now retired, Dukes spends his time carrying his message to students in area schools as a living link to history. He emphasizes the importance of self-discipline and guarding our freedom.
“As we celebrate our state’s 200th birthday, it’s important to remember our veterans who continue to make significant contributions to our communities,” Bennett said. “Illinois, Vermilion County and Georgetown, especially, are incredibly lucky to have Charlie Dukes who, to this day, continues to be an inspiration to us all.”
[Photo courtesy of Senator Bennett’s office.]