Korean War vet overcomes racism, finds life’s true calling


By LANCE CRANMER                                         lcranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org

In honor of Black History Month, National Church Residences put out the call to our thousands of employees and residents to share their amazing stories of success and overcoming adversity. This story came to us from Tonya Dillard, Property Manager at Pecan Villa, in Ruston, Louisiana, about one of her residents, George McCree.

“He is noble, quiet spirited, he won’t volunteer anything, but he shares with those he cares for, and I am honored to be one of those people,” said Dillard. “He speaks volumes without many words. He is humble and the most respectful person I have ever encountered.”

George Arco McCree joined the Army in 1949 as an 18-year-old man living in Los Angeles. Sent to Ft. Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, for training, McCree found himself in an all-black platoon. However, as McCree noticed, all of his commanding officers were white.

McCree completed his eight-week basic training at Ft. Jackson and was rewarded with a 14-day leave. Once that was done, McCree was shipped out – headed for the Korean War.

“Corporal McCree saw many, many unspeakable things. Things that he continues to deal with to this day,” said Dillard. “Yet he shared with me that the young 18-year-old boy was now a real man, who had the opportunity to fight with all colors, creeds and religions without a second thought.”

McCree served his country in Korea for three years before returning home.

“Mr. McCree explained that, ‘color seemed insignificant,’ except for one consistency, ‘all the officers were Caucasian.’ There was no way that he would be an officer,” Dillard said. “He shared that, ‘I saw a lot of death and had to do a lot to survive.’ This still impacts him to this day. His duty was to fight – for his country and his life, with his fellow soldiers, with no regard for color, race or religion.”

When McCree arrived back in the United States, he was stationed at Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

“It was there where his service in battle seemed to almost have no value,” he told Dillard. “It was the color of his skin that would determine his new war.”

In the still-segregated South, McCree went from fighting alongside his fellow Americans for a unified cause, to fighting for equal rights as an African-American man.

“Mr. McCree, for the first time, encountered the KKK, racist comments and bold racism daily, until it finally affected his rank,” said Dillard. “A decorated Corporal Sergeant, Mr. McCree was placed in the dark stockades for defending himself against a racist/bigot taunting him and he was demoted from Corporal to Buck Private. Yet he survived, and he stood strong and continues to stand strong. It didn’t break him.”

Following his time in the stockades, McCree eventually returned to his duties as a Drill Sergeant until his honorable discharge in 1956.

After leaving the military, McCree struggled for a time to find the right career path before finding a good job at Providence Hospital as a janitor.

“But that’s not where the story ends,” said Dillard. “Mr. McCree discovered that he had a desire to do even more, so he went to school and became a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant).”

In 1964, McCree fell in love with a woman named Patsy Ann, and two years later they were married. In the years that followed, the couple was blessed with two children, a daughter named Gwen and a son named Larry – who has since made the McCrees grandparents.

As McCree’s life flourished, his career did as well. He continued his education, first becoming a Licensed Vocational Nurse and then a Registered Nurse as a graduate of San Francisco State.

In 1984, the McCrees made the decision to move to Louisiana.

“As he has told me often, a smart man will follow his wife,” said Dillard. “So that’s what he did. Upon moving to Louisiana, he worked at North Louisiana Regional Medical Center for years in the ICU/CCU and on the floor.”

Dillard said that McCree believes that working in the medical field was his calling from God. He continued working as a health care provider until it was time for him to retire.

“Eventually, the strain of days past started to wear on Mr. McCree. The Korean War and the pain of his military service continued to plague him,” Dillard said. “With the support of his loving wife, he decided to call Pecan Villa home in 1997 and has been a family member ever since.

“Every morning he greets me with a smile and a, ‘Good Morning!’ What a blessing he is. Behind that smile, no one would know all the pain that he has endured or that he deals with on a daily basis. But it is evident that God gives him and extra dose of Grace to share that quiet spirit with us daily.”

(Cranmer is the Media/Public Relations Specialist for National Church Residences. Contact him at lcranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org)

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