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Arlington veteran sells his books to help fund cancer research

USS Arizona survivor Maurice Vincent passes on parts of his life story at the Arlington Haggen Food & Pharmacy store Nov. 20, to help raise money for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and area firefighters. - Kirk Boxleitner
USS Arizona survivor Maurice Vincent passes on parts of his life story at the Arlington Haggen Food & Pharmacy store Nov. 20, to help raise money for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and area firefighters.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — Maurice Vincent has lived to the age of 93, but it was only a stroke of good luck that kept him from becoming a statistic nearly 69 years ago.

Vincent is a Darrington native and World War II Naval veteran who was at the Arlington Haggen Food & Pharmacy store Nov. 20 selling copies of his books on his life and times to help raise money for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and area firefighters. His fundraising efforts to help save others’ lives have marked the last several years of a life that nearly ended on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

“I survived by the grace of God,” said Vincent, a former sailor who enlisted two years before the United States officially entered a war, and who would have still been serving on board the battleship USS Arizona during the Japanese attack if not for a last-minute break.

“I was a first-class buglemaster,” Vincent laughed, recalling how he trained the ship’s five other buglers on the 38 bugle calls they had to perform. “They don’t even have that rate anymore. Anyway, I was set to go to school for additional training, but it usually took a few months to happen. Right before the bombing, my division officer received a communique and pulled me aside to tell me that my school had been granted early, but I had to leave on an oil tanker within the hour. I told him I didn’t want to trade down from riding on the flagship of the fleet to going on board an oil tanker, but he told me that was an order.”

Although Vincent wasn’t around to witness the bombing, he left late enough just before it happened to be reported killed in action by the time he arrived in San Diego two weeks later.

“My shipmate who went with me was also reported killed, and his dad died of a heart attack when he heard the news,” Vincent said. “When we heard the news, we couldn’t turn back. When I got to San Diego, I was told to call my people to let them know I was still alive. I told the communication officer that he should do it instead, since I didn’t want any of them dropping dead like my shipmate’s dad.”

Vincent went from his training school to the battleship USS California, and eventually served 12 years in the fleet, earning himself two Good Conduct medals, a Secret Service Medal and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal. More recently, his grandson presented him with a flag that was flown over Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Not content to rest on his laurels, Vincent has written three books. “From the Buggy to the Moon” summarizes the advances he’s witness during his lifetime, and he laughed as he suggested that he hoped to see a man walk on the surface of Mars next. “Women Are a Blessing to This World” offers his thoughts on life and marriage, and “A Dedicated Man for Nine Decades” opens with a dedication to his 1,117 shipmates on board the USS Arizona who are lying at the bottom of Pearl Harbor to this day.

Through these book sales, Vincent has raised at least $6,675 for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center since 2006, for which the center’s annual giving officer, Keri Goebel, wrote him a letter of thanks on March 24 of this year.

“People need to remember that freedom is not free,” Vincent said. “We should all learn that lesson from history.”

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