My father, Milton W. Sanders passed away today. He was 86 years old and passed quickly and peacefully with the comfort of his family close by, here in Washington DC.
His spirituality, faith and love of family led him to accomplish so much during his lifetime. His marriage to Jean Lee MacRae is a true romance novel - for 46 years. Milt swept Jean off her feet when she was just 24 years old. Dad having lost his first wife to cancer in 1957, with three children, met Jean in 1958 - she had one child of her own. They were married in April of 1958. Over the next six years they would produce four more children, with one passing just 10 days after birth.
Over the next forty years, Milt and Jean would be blessed with 28 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren - a legacy to his wonderful soul.
His first legacy is as a retired Lt. Colonel - Air Force. Dad flew P-47 fighters in the European Theater during WWII - 116 missions. He had 7 planes shot up so badly that they were discarded. Dad received 2 Presidential Citations, 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 20 Air Medals, The French Croix De Guerre with Silver Star and the Belgium Fourragere (for fighting in the Battle of the Bulge). Milton Sanders was featured 10 years ago in a DISCOVERY documentary on the "Greatest Fighters in History", his being the P-47.
On June 6th, 1944, Milton flew fighter support for the D-Day landing in Normandy. He told us that when crossing the English Channel, "It looked like a carpet of ships, and we had to fly above the invading Navy and Marines so that we didn't get shot down by our own ships. Once past the ships, our Mission was to take out the bunkers that were killing our Boys".
Being a very accomplished piano player, as towns in France were re-occupied by the US, Milt would drive into these towns by jeep with the other pilots. He would find the local church and find a way into the church so that he could play the organ ...it rang loud and clear...and it was known that Milt was playing.
This past Saturday night - February 7th, 2004, Milt got up out of "his" chair and sat down at his baby grand piano and brought forth the will to try and play his love song to Jean, in front of four of his seven children. He managed to give us a glimpse of his own "style" - always romantic, and always dedicated to his loving wife.
The next day brought a major decline. He had seen all but one of his children, so that he could give them a "father's blessing". This day brought him to the bed, with no real level of communication. The last Son came home around 2 AM the following day. At around 8 AM that morning, Milt sat up and looked at him and said "Hello Love" - we then lost him to a coma. Later that evening, his "Jean" laid with him and spoke of their engagement, wedding and the next 46 years...he then lifted his left arm in an attempt to hug her...he then drifted off.
Milton W. Sanders passed away the next day in peace and in no pain.
Dad was the youngest of 13 children, with his mother being 48 when he was born and his father 57...in 1917. He is now in a better place, working to help all of us who love and adore him.
He LOVED the Washington Redskins, and I would experience his jeers or extreme frustration...as we lounged together, enjoying the wonderful "football" food brought to us by Mom and my sister, over the past two decades. Dad was in the hospital when Joe Gibbs was signed back this past month ...He was released the next day... hmmmmm
I lost my father today, an Icon of a "Man", and a wonderful supporter of what's good in life.
Thank you for ALL of your support - not for me, but for a Man who put his life on the line to help make this country Free and filled with Democracy. There are not many WWII veterans left, PLEASE acknowledge them, for their sacrifices and for the families that love them and cherish them so.
I have attached a photo of Dad while in France during WWII - he was approximately 26.
"Go get 'em Dad - we love you and miss you so very much".
Your loving Son,
Photo Courtesy of: Russell Sanders
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