September 13, 2020

Card shower planned for former WWII POW and wife celebrating 71st anniversary Sept. 17

          Former World War II prisoner of war Charlie Dukes, 97, of Georgetown, Ill., not only survived the grueling experiences of his captivity, but went on to help educate future generations about history and the cost of war by speaking to school classes and service clubs and writing his memoir, “Good Morning but the Nightmares Never End,” now in its third printing.

          Following the war, Charlie adjusted somewhat to life on the home front, went to college and met the love of his life, Gracie Schwab. Now, their four children and many friends are planning to help them celebrate their 71st wedding anniversary on Sept. 17, and invite the public to send a card or note of best wishes to them for the occasion: 

Charlie and Gracie Dukes 
Autumn Fields 
Room 115
 316 E. 14th St. 
Tilton, IL 61832 
Charlie’s story of survival was an arduous one all those years ago, but he made it back home to Illinois from Europe in the fall of 1945 after the war had officially ended. That was after enduring nine months in a German POW camp near the Polish border until prisoners and Germans alike hastily evacuated and started to flee west to avoid Russian troops advancing from the east, then spending time in a Russian detention camp from which he escaped, and later surviving a couple of months alone on the road before reaching the safety of Allied Lines on May 27--20 days after the Germans had surrendered. Dukes’ long journey to freedom ended with a prisoner exchange at the Elbe River in Wittenberg, Germany. 
In his retirement years, Charlie visited area schools and clubs, talking about the war and his experiences. In the late 1990s, he began to write his memoir about the war, “Good Morning but the Nightmares Never End” (available from Tales Press and at Amazon) with the help of his wife, Gracie. The title is taken from Charlie’s promise of saying, “Good morning,” for the rest of his life after he and a buddy were lead scouts for his L Company, 3rd Platoon, 413th Infantry, 104th Wolfhound Division, and they encountered a German battalion. His buddy was killed, and Charlie was trapped between the lines in no-man’s land for the night. 
“I’m not really a religious man,” he says, “but I promised the man upstairs that if I ever saw the sun come up again, I’d say ‘good morning’ for the rest of my life. When the sun came up, I said, ‘Good morning.’ I’ve been saying it ever since.” 
            In addition to Dukes’ story being available in hardcover and Amazon Kindle formats, Urbana native and scriptwriter Joe Hampton is developing an audiobook version and has written a script for a movie. A few years ago, Hampton posted a short video on YouTube of Dukes talking about his wartime experiences.
            It’s been an important mission for Dukes to share his story with others, and, in fact, the process has therapeutically helped eliminate the frequent, and sometimes very active, nightmares that haunted him for years. 
So, please consider taking a moment to send a card or note to bring a little cheer to a special couple for their 71st anniversary. And you might start your note off with a hearty “Good morning, Charlie and Gracie!” 

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