HOLIDAY, Fla. (FOX 13) - The Fourth of July is a time to celebrate America, independence, and freedom. But for 93-year-old Joe Clark, it's an anniversary of knowing just how important that freedom is.
"I'm glad I came through it all," the veteran offered.
On July 4, 1944, the then-19-year-old was with his Army patrol fighting in France during World War II when he was captured by the Germans.
"We got out too far. Germans came in," Joe recalled.
"He was captured in France, July the 4th. And ironically, just a few miles away, General Eisenhower was giving a speech on the Fourth of July and about independence", said Clark's daughter-in-law, Nesa.
For nearly a year, he was a prisoner of war.
"Ten months and 19 days," said Joe. "There was 200 of us who went from the camp to Dresden, Germany and we did a little construction.”
"Germans did a lot of building and of course they used the people they captured to do the labor," explained Nesa.
It's memories that the veteran hasn't shared with his family, until recently.
"I said, 'How did you feel during that time?' I mean here I am, a mom of a son the same age that you were when you were captured, and he said, 'You know, I was never scared, because I knew that my mom was praying for me,'" said Nesa.
Nesa researched his military past using a website called Fold 3.
"I was surprised to find his entire military record from the time he entered Basic through his POW time," said Nesa.
While the cards, letters and articles they saved may not reflect the best of times, the Clark family said the journey of the Purple Heart recipient is an important one to share.
"We're losing our World War II veterans and if we can't get their stories now they will be lost and that would be a terrible tragedy," Nesa added.
It’s a good reminder of what July 4th is really about.
"Freedom isn't free," said Joe.
LINK: For more information about Fold 3, visit www.fold3.com/