SADLER, TX-Hundreds of area high school students got a history lesson Wednesday from someone who actually lived it. One local World War II veteran has been sharing his stories with Texoma kids for years, but there was something extra special about his program.
Charles Baum of Whitesboro is one of thousands of soldiers who walked 90 miles in the Bataan Death March. Despite no rest, food and water for six days and 42 months as a Japanese Prisoner Of War, he survived.
Wednesday, he shared his story for the last time.
"If you do what they said, then you'll stay alive. There's a lot of them that didn't make it. A lot of them just fall, just drop dead walking right along with me."
Charles Baum was just a 24-year-old army private when he survived the terror of the Bataan Death March.
Hundreds of S&S High School students sat, riveted by his story, as he told them how POW's were denied food and water during the 90 mile walk that he was forced to "sneak a drink" from rain puddles.
"I was just hoping to make it," he said.
Baum volunteered to be in the Army Air force in 1941 and was stationed at Clark Field in the Philippines. When the base was captured by Japanese troops in 1942, the march began.
After spending 42 months as a prisoner of war he was released in 1945, weighing only 80 pounds.
"I think it was really moving and, now that I hear what he went through, I think that I will honor our country more instead of turning it down like I do every morning when I pledge and be more grateful to people who fought for us," said S&S student, Mashell Crowder.
S&S students and staff greeted Baum with a standing ovation Wednesday for the last time. After countless presentations at North Texas schools for about 50 years, 95-year-old Baum said it's time to hang up his hat.
"He's a great man, it's an honor to have him in my family. I don't know what I'd do without him," said Riley Stricker, Baum's great grandson.
"It is an amazing honor to have him come to our school and tell us his journey on serving our country," said S&S student, Shara Chumley.
History teacher, Tim Harrington said it's once in a lifetime opportunity for his students to hear history from someone who lived through it, like Baum.
"This was fantastic because I want them to understand that this is one of those chances that you don't always get and if you miss a second of it, you're gonna miss a huge gap in your education," he said.
Baum wants students to learn a valuable lesson from his experience.
"Learn how to trust God," he said.
After World War II, The U.S. Army awarded Baum with the American Defense Service Ribbon with a bronze star, a Distinguished Unit Badge, the Purple Heart and the Victory Ribbon.
He was also awarded the Philippine Defense Medal from the Philippine government.
Baum is also the great grandson of Ambrose White, founder of the city of Whitesboro.