by Clarence Thomas, Jr.
The event...The Korean War. The year...1953. The day…March 23. The place...Pork Chop Hill. The incident...the capture of U.S. Army soldier Charlie C. Code by the Chinese. The outcome...six months of hard time as a Prisoner of War.
But to see and hear Code, one would not know what he went through. The 85-year-old Maconite returned to his hometown following the three-year conflict, which started in 1950 following a post-World War II United States-Russian Cold War, and hit the ground running. Code eventually joined Lizzie Chapel Baptist Church. That's where former Macon City Council member Dr. Thelma Dillard first encountered Code as a nine-year-old member. The past president of Macon’s NAACP says Code has always been a servant who humbly helped others. He routinely repaired the homes of the elderly and today chairs Lizzie Chapel's Deacon Board. "He's very faithful. It's an honor to know him. He went through a lot and endured more than we know," Dillard said during a recent phone conversation.
Code shared his experiences as a P.O.W. in detail. The walk to the prison site was grueling. So much so Code almost gave up and risked being killed. Once there he was subject to eating food his body wasn't accustom to consuming repeatedly. No communication with the outside world was allowed. Not knowing what was next was unnerving - living by the moment in anticipation of torture, death or never seeing his family again. He admits his saving grace may have been the fact that he was captured by the Chinese instead of North Koreans. Russia and China were North Korean allies. Some luxuries like basketball, books and ping pong were provided. Despite the temporary distractions, the realization that things could turn bad at any moment was ever present. But he never gave up hope. His patience and perseverance paid off in September 1953 when we was released in exchange for another Prisoner of War held by opposing forces. He was honorably discharged on August 7, 1954. "I just stayed highly focused on getting back home," Code said. "My whole life changed after going through that. Once I got back to Macon I could see how blessed I was."
Code's service to Lizzie Chapel and his community is consistent with his claim. He uses his position as the head of the Deacon Board to reach younger men through being a living example and mentoring. He says his capture made him a better man and evolved him into one that puts God and family first. "I live to be an inspiration to some young men. While captured I never forgot about God. I was saved for a reason," said Code. In addition to heading the church's Deacon Board Code co-founded Lizzie Chapel's food bank. The feeding program provides much needed sustenance to scores of families at the church and throughout Macon. Reverend Ronald Toney pastors Lizzie Chapel and says Code is an inspiration. He views him as a standard bearer that provides young men in the church good advice and support without being overbearing. "He's been like a father to me. He's been a tremendous support. I don't think I could have had as much success here without him standing with me," Toney said. "That's how much I love and respect him."
On February 11 and 12 Code will be honored by the Lizzie Chapel Baptist Church family and community. The first ceremony features a reception; special reflections by church members, family and friends; and the reading of proclamations during the 4 p.m. Saturday event. On Sunday, Code will receive VIP treatment. The 11 a.m. service will include special seating for him and his family; dedications; and special gifts. Dillard says Code is most deserving as are all veterans. "This is significant. He turned something painful into something positive. By honoring him we honor all veterans," she said. "He's a treasure. That's why we wanted to honor him," Toney added. "When you look at what he went through in Korea, he deserves to be recognized. He's well deserving of this and more." "I said what I thought was my last prayer while in captivity," Code reflected. "It wasn’t nothing I did. It had to be The Lord that brought me back for his own purpose."
The February 11 and 12 events are free and open to the public. Lizzie Chapel Baptist Church (1180 Bartlett Street) invites and encourages residents to attend. For more information about the honoring of Charlie C. Code call 478-746-0422 or email Pastor Ronald Toney at email@example.com.
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P.O. Box 446, Macon, • GA 31202 * Ofc: 478-745-7265