By Whitney Delbridge Nichels, Warrior Care and TransitionMay 17, 2017
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA - On paper, the extraordinary life story of Michel Margosis reads like a dramatic tale pulled from a Hollywood script. But the trauma and triumph the 89-year-old Holocaust survivor experienced growing up during World War II is as real as it gets.
Margosis met with Wounded Warrior personnel at a Holocaust Days of Remembrance event, organized as part of the group's Equal Opportunity training.
The training is meant to introduce Army staff to diverse perspectives and promote respect for others from all walks of life.
Margosis shared with the group some of his earliest memories as a Jewish child growing up in Belgium in the late 1920's. By that time, he says his father - who ran a pro-Jewish newspaper - had already been captured once in Siberia and escaped.
On September 3, 1939, just one day after Margosis' 11th birthday, England and France declared war on Germany.
"I still remember the bombs coming down on Brussels," he said. "We packed whatever we could and went to the railroad station."
He and his family would stay on that train for seven days, going from one bombed out city to the next, staying low to avoid the machine gunfire from planes.
That was just one of the many close calls Margosis, his siblings and his parents (who were often separated by distance as they moved throughout Europe in search of safety) would face.
He says their breakthrough came when his mother paid $40,000 to have someone illegally take her and her three children into Spain.
But once there, the children became separated from their mother, and Margosis, the youngest, ended up in an orphanage.
In 1943, Margosis was put on a ship unaccompanied to the United States. He arrived in New York where he would go on to finish high school, earn two degrees and enlist in the Army after officially becoming a U.S. citizen.
As a career chemist, Margosis says becoming an Army medic just made sense.
His wife, whom he met while earning his Master's degree, was also part of Army Medicine. Margosis says she was a nurse at Walter Reed before her death in 2001 following 43 years of marriage.
At the end of the presentation - filled with pictures and other relics from his storied past - the group presented Margosis with a certificate of appreciation and an AW2 briefcase.
Equal Opportunity Leader Staff Sgt. Thomas Placencio says he was honored to work with the Holocaust Survivor Speakers Bureau to organize the event.
"Anyone who has been to the Holocaust Museum or done any research on this topic can get a great understanding of how significant this was as part of world history," Placencio said. "But when you sit down with someone who has actually been through it, it really brings the true picture to life."