By: Rebecca S. Jones
African-American News & Issues
HOUSTON – ‘Splendid Grace’ defines the 103-year-old, charming and witty personality of retired U.S. veteran and devoted Deacon Maxie Sanford. He was born May 10, 1910 to the late William and Emma McDonald Sanford in the Hawthorne Community of New Waverly, Walker County, Texas. Sanford was one of 13 children. He, along with his siblings were reared and raised in the nurture and admonition of Christ, by his parents. Sanford and his family were devout members of Jasper Missionary Baptist Church in Hawthorne. Upon reaching young adulthood, he moved to Houston where he met and married Mrs. Viola Webster Sanford.
Continuing with the family values and spirituality that Sanford had been previously exposed to in New Waverly by his parents; when he left home, he didn’t leave his God. Equipped with a desire to serve the Lord, Sanford and his bride joined Progressive New Hope Baptist Church in Houston. Together, he and his wife have devoted over a century of service to the Progressive New Hope Baptist Church. Sanford, chaired the Board of deacons and headed the financial board for over four decades. During that time, the loyal deacon prided himself in the fact that he was always on time for church service. He stated that he would, “arrive at Sunday School ahead of time and be there until the very last service concluded.” He was named ‘Man of the Year’ twice by his church. In his capacity as chair of the City-wide Baptist brotherhood, he has traveled to a plethora of Baptist conventions and conferences throughout the nation. Additionally, he has been bestowed with various honors and has stood before many churches and national leaders.
Mr. Sanford was inducted into the United States Army on June 1, 1943. He served in the 389th Engineer General Service Regiment. This particular battalion was the year before Sanford was enrolled into the Army. The 389th Engineer Battalion (Separate) (Colored) was a unit for Blacks. It was initially activated on May 5, 1942 in Camp Gordon, Georgia. It was later relocated to the Desert Training Center and from there it was expanded, reorganized and redesignated on August 20, 1943 and named as the 389th Engineer General Service Regiment (Separate) (Colored). As a member of this division Sanford worked on bridges, roads, railroads and buildings located in combat zones.
In addition to his service in the 389th Engineer Regiment, he fought in the battles and campaigns of Northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe. Furthermore, Sanford served in World War II. World War II followed two decades after World War I. It proved to be even more horrendous than the first. Rising to power in an economically and politically unstable Germany, was Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist (Nazi Party). Collectively Hitler and the Nazi Party rearmed the nation and signed strategic treaties with Italy and Japan to further his agenda of world domination. Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 drove Great Britain and France to declare war on Germany, insomuch that World War II resulted. World War II was a fierce battle and has went on record as having taken more lives and destroying more land and property around the globe than any previous war. Among the estimated 45-60 million people killed were 6 million Jews murdered in Nazi concentration camps as part of Hitler’s diabolical “Final Solution,” now known as the Holocaust. Mr. Maxie Sanford lived, worked and fought through this grim period in World history.
When asked of a few memories from his service in the military, Sanford immediately began expounding upon his experience with the Germans during World War II. He vividly recalled how his team lost a lot of men and tanks. He explained that for, ten days and nights, cold, fog and rain invaded the puck tents that they slept in. The tents were stationed roundabout the Communication center. After nearly two weeks of living in such conditions, his commander finally assembled the crew together to shower. Sanford informed of how they had to travel many miles just to shower. Not long afterwards, he remembers travelling across 80 miles of water to get to their unit’s next project. In the midst of the war, Sanford was a part of a crew that was constantly in danger. He reflected back on how the Germans nearly trapped he and his crew as they were trying to finish building railroad tracks.
Another memorable experience for Sanford was when a decision had been made to build a camp between France and Germany. His group was responsible for the constructing of the camp. After the camp was completed, it was determined that the camp needed an office. Sanford’s commanding officer immediately called upon him and told him what was needed. Sanford said that he asked for a pencil and paper; and drew a diagram of the office and all necessary tools needed to complete it. It was from this experience that Sanford was awarded a three day pass to Paris, France. As Mr. Sanford shared in on his wonderful experience in Paris, much joy and pleasure illuminated from his face as he bore record of his precious memories.
Due to Sanford’s outstanding service and dedication to the United States Army he was awarded a Good Conduct Medal and European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal complete with four Bronze stars. However, he also has a gallery of many more commendations. Upon the completion of his military duty, Sanford returned home where he rejoined the WKM Oil Supply Company. There he established a career and dedicated over 40 years of service to it WKM Oil Supply Company.
Although Mr. Maxie Sanford has been blessed to see many seasons, people, places and things come and go, he rests assured that he is blessed to still be here. During an interview, the retired soldier explained that, “My vision gets kind of dim at times but I don’t really have any aches and pains; I eat three meals a day and overall I feel good”. Sanford exclaimed that, “God’s grace and mercy has brought and kept me throughout my entire life.” He went on to add that, “I had twelve brothers and sisters and they are all gone; but I thank the Lord that he has kept me here.” He was blessed with 56 years of marriage to Mrs. Viola Webster Sanford before her passing, no children were born through their union. Mr. Maxie Sanford celebrated his 103rd birthday on May 10, 2013.
African-American News & Issues salutes Mr. Maxie Sanford for his dedication and contributions to the United States Army. Not only would we like to pay homage to Mr. Maxie Sanford for the services rendered to our nation, but we salute every soldier that has enlisted and sacrificed for the greater good of the American people!
By: Rebecca S. Jones