A few weeks ago, I had the honor of meeting a man named Melvin at his home.
Melvin enlisted in the U.S Marine Corps. in 1942 in World War II and was stationed in the South Pacific, and he felt comfortable enough to share his experience with me for the newspaper. As we continue to lose more of these heroes each day, it’s increasingly important to make sure their stories are not lost and they are recognized for their bravery in some of the most frightening times this world has seen.
While engaging in conversation, he told me about securing each of the islands to which he was assigned. He fought through many battles and watched his fellow men perish from Japanese weaponry. He said they lost more men from disease such as malaria and yellow fever as they trudged through the jungles. He described it as the scariest place he’d ever seen, with conditions so wet their feet would rot in their boots.
Melvin also was wounded in Bougainville after getting hit with grenade shrapnel near the eye and later received a Purple Heart. I was able to see the medal, which was pinned on a board along with a number of photographs of his time in the Marines, and a previous article from my newspaper where he was honored with a commemorative quilt by a local elementary school on Veterans Day.
I know I spent too long interviewing him, but listening to him was inspiring and I only wanted more stories about this interesting individual. Like most people living on this Earth, I can’t begin to imagine the emotions that gripped him every time he took an island beach surrounded by danger, or the thrill of learning one of the most important wars in history was finished. And good won out.
As my career in journalism comes to an end (or at least a long pause), this is one of the few interviews I will take with me and cherish throughout my life. I’m very proud to say I spent a single hour with him.
At nearly 100 years old, Melvin continues to be a friendly, upbeat gentleman. A gentleman who only wanted ice cream when he returned stateside following the end of the war. It was his duty to serve his country, he said, and he didn’t think twice about it.
And I’m so thankful he was one of many who did.