Two young soldiers stood out Monday among the throngs of veterans at the burial of Rock Hill’s arguably most legendary black soldier – World War II veteran Johnie Roseborough.
Sgt. Erin Roseborough, in combat uniform, and Pvt. Ian Roseborough, in dress uniform, stood at attention as their great-grandfather’s flag-draped casket was carried into Rock Grove AME Zion Church by members of Roseborough’s beloved Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3746.
Roseborough, who was 89 when he died on Thursday, walked and drove hundreds of miles through France, Belgium and Germany as part of the “Red Ball Express” – the U.S. Army’s huge trucking convoy, manned largely by black soldiers, that carried critical supplies to Allied fighters during World War II. He left home and fought for four years for a country that said he was not equal to a white man.
“We knew some of what he went through, and we were proud of him,” said Ian Roseborough, just 19 and a fresh enlistee – just like his great-grandfather was 70-plus years ago. “What would the world be like if it wasn’t for people like him?”
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Late in life – other than when he was in church – Roseborough almost always wore a baseball cap that showed he was a World War II Army veteran. He never shied away from talking about how much he loved America. He would take off that hat and tell anybody of any color what freedom costs.
VFW Post 3746 was created after World War I by black soldiers who – despite war service and so much heroism – could not join the established VFW post because they were black. Roseborough was its commander for decades.
Dozens of Post 3746 members who fought and were wounded for America in World War II, Korea and Vietnam attended Monday’s service. Tough guys such as Charles Thurmond, 73, whose entire gun battery in Vietnam except for him was wiped out. Those guys continue their service to community and country to this day from Post 3746 on Crawford Road.
“Johnie Roseborough was a great man,” said Thurmond. “A leader.”
State VFW leaders attended Monday’s services, too – men and women of all colors who stood testament to a changed Army and a changed society. Everybody stood together.
The Rev. Titus Thorn, pastor of Rock Grove church, spoke about how Roseborough “lived life as an example to all, by treating everyone as equals.”
In 2011, Roseborough was a guest of honor aboard an Honor Flight of veterans to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. All the servicemen on that flight were given a standing ovation that day. Roseborough cried for his fallen friends when he was finally recognized for what he had given to his country.
At the center of Monday’s funeral – both in the church and in the veterans section of Grand View Memorial Park – was the American flag. There was the flag on the casket and flags atop some church pews. Flags on lapels. Flags on cars. The family was presented the American flag that was on the casket by an honor guard from Fort Jackson.
Musician Bobby Plair, a World War II veteran, Post 3746 member and Roseborough’s friend since they were in first grade, played Taps along with his son, Bobby Plair Jr.
Bobby Plair never played better or with more pride than for his friend on Monday. Plair wore his American flag pin with pride, too. All the people there did – veterans and not.
Great-granddaughter Erin Roseborough, standing proud herself in an Army uniform, summed up her great-grandfather as well as anyone could.
“There is a place in history for him. He served his country so well.”