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It is not very often you meet a 3 war veteran let alone a Pearl Harbor survivor but that’s what the kids got to do yesterday as we toured Pearl Harbor.
Usually vets who wear their service at older ages tend to be chatty and affable. There’s all types of vets and I’m grateful for all of them but it’s nice for kids to be able to approach the chatty type. We started our vacation driving over Donner Pass to SF and had dinner at Max’s in Auburn, CA where we met a 101 yr old WW2 vet who shook our kids’ hands and received a hearty thank you from us all.
Sterling was born 11/29/1921 and spent his 95th where he was 75 years ago on a gruesome burial detail. He was a pharmacists mate who spent WW2 with the Marines at Guadalcanal, Bougainville, and Saipan. He was with the Army in Korea and had various assignments during the Vietnam war.
He asked what I did and where I lived which transitioned in to the old west of the 30’s. In his teens he broke mustangs in Wyoming and had a gray one which would only be ridden bareback. During the 50’s he was in Laos and was friends with a Dr Tom Dooley who apparently was a famous anti-communist person who devoted much of his time to stamping out disease in south east Asia. Sterling talked about Dr Dooley riddled with cancer and in too much pain to sit yet still figuring out ways to help kids. I think the man was an inspiration to Sterling. Sterling helped open up the pharmacy at Tripler Army Hospital here in Oahu many decades ago. Not every soldier has to charge a machine gun to contribute, some need to be competent and conscientious about mundane items like drug dosages and med allergies.
The USS Arizona still leaks a few quarts of oil each day that sometimes flow right on to the USS Missouri, an odd alpha and omega of battleships intertwined here and this wasn’t lost on the boy as he stood on the Japanese surrender spot later on. 23 pairs of brothers perished on the Arizona and one father/son team, Thomas and William Free.
Quite by accident I was here for the 50th anniversary and somehow I ought to be here for the 100th should I be alive.
After the tour we saw 3 survivors giving a speech and had the pleasure of meeting them. I have a tremendous love for old vets of all flavors but my heart swelled as my kids shook these soldiers’ hands and said ,”God Bless you”.