(KMSP) - Ray Robinson served in the famed 92nd Infantry Division in World War II. They were called The Buffalo Soldiers ,and it was the country's only all black division.
If friends are like birthday candles, Papa Ray Robinson has more than he can count.
"You know, on my 97th birthday having my family and friends around me you can't get any better than family and friends,” Robinson said.
And those friends are honoring the man who has given so much. Ray was just 20-years-old, and World War II was raging when he volunteered for the Army. A segregated Army.
"The country wasn't kind to black people. And when I joined the service, they said you're going to go fight for a country that is not fighting for you, but I knew things would get better and that's why I did that," Robinson said.
Ray still has the memories even of the friends he lost.
"I'm seeing them hit with bullets. They were that close to me, and you can't imagine the sound that a human being makes when he gets hit. And I had to endure all of that and it left scars. You can't see them, but it left scars on me," Robinson said.
His courage earned him three bronze stars. His life earned him presidential admiration.
"Sincerely, Barack and Michelle Obama," Robinson said.
"Personally, I would have done this for my father because he was a World War II veteran, but I can't. But I can do it for Ray who I consider to be a father figure to me," VFW Post 7051 Commander Jay Lietzow said.
"For us, my brother and I, grandsons we've always kind of known how great he is, but it's really amazing to see other people talk about him how special he is how kind he is and how much people love him," Robinson’s grandson Joshua Groll said.
All in a room where colors never fade, and neither does honor.
"It was Martin Luther King who said when a reporter asked him once how do you want to be remembered when it's all over? He said, 'Don't mention the degrees I got. Just say I was a man who tried to help somebody.' And so, that's my philosophy. I just want to help somebody," Robinson said.
Papa Ray told us none of us can image how grateful he is to celebrate his 97th birthday especially given his service in the war. He looked at our camera and said, "There by the grace of God, I would have been gone a long time ago."