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Vets, civilians remember their service, sacrifices
ARLINGTON The seventh annual Military Day at the Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Hall and Museum Dec. 7 was an appropriately historic-minded occasion, coinciding as it did with the anniversary of Pearl Harbors bombing.
The event allowed attendees to reflect on their nations past and present armed conflicts. It also gave former military members the opportunity to trade more personal war stories over coffee and cookies.
Bruce Peseau offered an informative and emotional account of the events surrounding the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941, both from a global and a personal perspective. He recalled his sister waking him up on that otherwise beautiful Sunday morning with the news, and realized that many of those brave souls who had been serving on the ships in that harbor, and at nearby Hickam Field where American aircraft were located, had also been asleep when Japanese aircraft had begun bombing.
With more than 2,400 Americans killed that morning, as well as significant numbers of ships sunk and airplanes destroyed, Peseau acknowledged the devastatingly accurate success of the attack. But he said the remaining repair facilities and aircraft carriers allowed American forces to achieve later victories in the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway Island. He said that Isoroku Yamamoto, Fleet Admiral and Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy, expressed his fears that his country might awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve, an assessment with which Peseau agreed.
For Peseau himself, World War II marked the first of two stints of military service with a tour of duty in Okinawa as part of the U.S. Army. With more than 6,000 Marines lost in the battle for Iwo Jima alone, and American military leaders estimating at least a million more American lives lost before their war with Japan was won, Peseau supported the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, noting that Japans unconditional surrender followed within days of the bombing and many of the veterans who returned to America might not have survived, had that brutal act not happened.
Peseau returned to the military in 1952, to serve with the Marines in Korea, among them former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III, then a Marine Captain who was Peseaus Company Commander, in the First Battalion of the First Regiment of the First Marine Division. As both an American citizen and a veteran, the 80-year-old Peseau recalled that he has always been impressed that our efforts, in both of my wars, were united, massive and coordinated. Everyone served, whether in the military or at home, and everyone deserves full and equal credit.
Peseau wrapped up his remarks by summarizing the qualities of duty, honor and country as three sacred words, that describe what we ought to be, what we can be and what we will be, as well as why we defend this great nation. As for the American military members who served at Pearl Harbor, he declared, They need no eulogy from me, for they have written their own history, and we all remember them for what they did. Their service fills us with an admiration we cannot adequately put into words. They added to the long list of great American patriots, and they show future generations of Americans what it requires to defend our liberty and freedom.
J.Y. Dycus, a fellow WWII veteran, likewise shared stories of his three-year stint in the U.S. Navy with appreciative attendees, from the time he was stationed at an air base near Arlington, where even in the midst of dairy rations, we had all the milk we wanted to drink, because of the bases contracts with local farms, to his tour of duty on board USS Salamaua (CVE 96), an escort carrier commissioned in 1944 and scrapped in 1946, with an eventful history in between.
Dycus flipped through photos of his ship as he remembered a kamikaze aircraft crashing into its flight deck on the morning of Jan. 13, 1945, less than five months before it was hit by a typhoon June 5. The kamikaze aircrafts bombs injured more than 80 crewmembers, killed 15 more and started fires on the ships flight and hangar decks, while also punching a hole in its starboard side at the waterline, flooding one of its engine rooms and causing its starboard engine to quit. For all the damage done by that aircraft, Dycus admitted to being far more shaken by the typhoon.
When that suicide flyer came at us, it was quick, Dycus said. That storm scared me more, because it lasted all night. Our planes went over the side, even after wed tied them down with steel cables, and it even took out our gun sponsons. At one point, we were listing close to 50 degrees, and anything over 38 degrees is supposed to be bad news.
At the same time that Dycus and his shipmates were supporting American military operations throughout the Pacific Rim, Jean Hunt switched over from being Rosie the Riveter to joining the Marines in 1943. Although a back injury forced her to leave the service just before the end of WWII in 1945, her two years in the military inspired Hunt, 83 years old, to enter the Civil Air Patrol and embark upon a lifetime of volunteerism.
I was part of the Hollywood Canteen, said Hunt, then a native of Long Beach, Calif., referring to the club that offered food and entertainment to American servicemen and women, usually on their way overseas. Wed take the bus to Camp Pendleton, to see Bob Hope in San Diego, and we went to North Hollywood to have our pictures taken with Lucille Ball. We had great fun.
Hunts time in the service also included regular visits to the local veterans hospital, where she would help convalescing military members write letters to their loved ones, in addition to bringing birthday cakes, once a month, to all the troops who had turned one year older. In spite of her own advanced age, Hunt has continued her commitment to the infirm, now as a clown for crippled children.
Betty Caruthers experiences with her countrys military have been as the surviving spouse of a serviceman, since her husband Carls active duty in the Marines covered 1959-1980, while their marriage lasted 43 years, ending with his death June 28, 2004. While standard obligations such as overseas deployments and unaccompanied tours occasionally created a rough life for them, Caruthers clearly took pride in having married one good-looking Marine, while urging her fellow Americans to support the troops currently serving.
My husband went to Vietnam twice, but we were in San Francisco when the protests were getting started, Caruthers said. We were threatened with having our house bombed, and other families wouldnt let their children play with ours. We were more afraid here than we were when we were over there.
Among the other civilians in attendance were several, like David King, who have taken their own fascination with wartime history a step further, by restoring and maintaining antique military vehicles, such as his 1943 M3A1 White Scout Car, that saw combat in Italy and Greece during WWII.
Im part of a military vehicle collectors club, King said, while clad in a similarly dated 27th Infantry Division Army officers uniform. We make appearances in events like the air show and the parades for the Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Veterans Day. My dad was in WWII and two of my brothers were in Vietnam. My goal is to get out and get seen with this vehicle, to honor and respect our armed forces by showing them that they are appreciated and not forgotten.