Rader said he became close friends with Hodges in 2001, when they gathered in Birmingham to film the documentary. After suffering a stroke in 1999, which hampered his ability to speak, he said, Rader underwent therapy for the sole purpose of being able to properly thank Hodges. “I wanted to honor him,” he said. “I went through maybe five or six years of therapy to get better.”
Hodges died in 2005, and the Raders flew to Birmingham to attend his funeral. “He was an amazing man … but he was so smart because of the way he negotiated with the Germans,” said June.
She and Bernie have three children and seven grandchildren. Bernie said he has given more than 150 presentations in the past 10 years, traveling to high schools and libraries to retell his story. “It’s ancient history to the kids,” said June. “And when they meet an actual soldier and a POW, they find it very interesting.”
In 2004, the couple returned to Brittany to try to find the dog tags that Rader had buried 60 years earlier, but were unsuccessful. On Veterans Day in 2007, Rader was presented the French Legion of Honor, the highest award the French government gives to a civilian, in Washington D.C. — by then French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
“Oral histories from people such as Bernie Rader are important to us all,” said Jude Schanzer, who does public relations work for the East Meadow library. “We must learn from those who have experienced the best and the worst the world has thrown at mankind. In this way we can go forward to continue their journey, and honor those who worked so hard to give us a better world.”