Ex-POW from Quincy to lay wreath at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
An 89-year-old Quincy man, who was a prisoner of war during World War II, will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday in honor of former prisoners of war.
Bob Noble, an Army veteran who spent 122 days in German POW camps, will attend the ceremony in Virginia on National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day.
"It's very difficult for me to comprehend the honor that has been extended to me," Noble said. "I've been to the tomb several times, and I've seen the ceremony. But I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be doing it."
Noble has arranged for a wreath made of daisies, which is the flower of the American Ex-Prisoners of War organization, along with red and white carnations for Thursday. A ribbon on the wreath will read "Ex-POW."
A yellow rose will also be included in the wreath as a tribute to Noble's wife, Gloria, who died in October 2013. She had been active in civic and veteran affairs in Quincy, he said.
The couple had been married 63 years — a period that Noble said "just seemed like a day."
More than 37 of Noble's friends and family will accompany him to Arlington.
"I am so honored by the number of friends and family who want to take the time and money to come see me in the ceremony," Noble said.
Major General Jeffrey Buchanan, commanding general of the Washington, D.C., area, invited Noble to be part of the ceremony when they met last September at an Army event in Boston.
Noble enlisted in the Reserve while he was still in high school in 1943. He was called to active duty in January 1944, and just a few months later, at 18 years old, he was sent overseas.
Just two days before his 19th birthday, Noble was captured with other American soldiers near the German border in France on Dec. 16, 1944. He was kept in various POW camps until being liberated by the British army in April 1945.
Noble said he was not mistreated, but he did not get enough food. He lost about 40 pounds, weighing just 100 pounds when he was freed.
He returned to the United States in June 1945, and after a brief reassignment, was discharged from the Army in November that year.
An optimist, Noble said the experience did not change him significantly.
He pointed out that he has met many former POWs through the American Ex-Prisoners of War organization and enjoys their company.
He always "rode with the wave,'' Noble said. "I make the best of whatever opportunity presents itself to me."