The Soldier who was Asked Not to Serve

aaMyers John cap (1)

Today I’m honoring a World War II Army medic who was born 94 years ago this week. A friend recommended I talk with him a few years ago and am I glad to have done so! What a story! I wrote this for a military publication I write for. It is commitment to his country like this that makes American soldiers great!

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During WWII, John Robert Myers of Berne, Indiana, was offered the unusual opportunity by the United States Army to not serve his country in battle.

“I had been the forward on our basketball team at Wilshire High School in Ohio,” he said. “While training as a nurse after basic training in Stanton, Virginia, Army hospital officials recognized my athletic skills and asked if I would play for the hospital’s basketball team. They said I would not have to go overseas.”

Myers refused the offer. “I knew I’d feel guilty later for not fighting,” he said. “I went into the war to do the best I could for my country.”

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Myers was born Dec 24, 1921, in Berne, Indiana. After graduating from high school in 1940, he worked on the family farm with his father.

Like so many young men, Myers’ routine was interrupted at the outbreak of war. Upon being drafted in 1941, Myers completed basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington, then was assigned more specialized training as a nurse.

He worked there until December 1944 when he was shipped to the Philippines. “Our ship was a former luxury liner with everything torn out and bunks added to accommodate soldiers,” he said.

In summer 1945 the emperor of Japan surrendered and the war was over. Most troops headed home but not Staff Sergeant John Myers. “I had not earned the required number of points to be discharged,” he said.

The required number of points was based, among other things, on time in service, battles fought, etc.

Myers remained in the South Pacific, serving six months in Manila on a hospital ship, the USS Yokohama. “We were set up to receive injured American soldiers and POWs,” he said.

aaMyers John St Luke fri

Myers also worked at St Luke’s International Medical Center in Tokyo. In addition to scrubbing floors and fixing windows, he volunteered to work on the sixth floor, an area other soldiers shied away from. “It was the contagious disease ward,” he said. “I chose to help there because I wanted to be where I was needed.” St. Luke’s hospital is still in existence today.

Soldiers on the sixth floor were afflicted with, among other things, hepatitis, cancer, meningitis, venereal diseases, and small pox. Unfortunately, working closely with patients caused Myers to contract hepatitis. “I hurt so much I wished someone would hit me over the head and knock me out,” he said. It took Myers a month to recover.

While overseas, Myers wrote letters to a female friend, Chloe, at home. She wrote back. John Myers was discharged and arrived back in Berne in May 1946. He and Chloe married four months later. They became parents to three daughters and later, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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John returned to farming and attended Bethel Brethren Church in Berne. His story of being a medic in World War II has been recorded by local students.

Of his time in the Army during WWII, Myers said, “Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge on our trip home brought tears to my eyes! To live in a place like America is such a privilege. I was glad to help my country when I could.”

Sadly, Robert “Bob” Myers, 92, Berne, passed away Monday, February 3, 2014. I’m glad to have met him and that he shared his story with me.

Several WWII vets and other vets are among us.  Find a vet and tell him/her thanks for the service they provided to our country!

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

Funeral of a Soldier

Thx to all who served sign

Ever attend the funeral of someone you don’t know? Yesterday I did so and it affected me greatly.

I don’t mean it was a long-ago friend of my husband’s or one of my kids’ teachers. This person was not related to me or acquainted with anyone I know.

Why would I attend a funeral for someone so distant from me? Because he was a Vietnam-era veteran with no family.

James Beavers served 1963-1966– it was not in Vietnam but the specs of where he served are unknown. Here is the obit from D.O. McComb & Sons Lakeside Park Funeral Home:

James Beavers , 74, passed away Monday, November 23, 2015 in Fort Wayne. He was a US Army Vietnam-era War Veteran. He has no surviving family. Funeral Service is 2:00 pm, December 17, 2015 at – D.O. McComb & Sons Lakeside Park Funeral Home, 1140 Lake Avenue with calling from noon until service time. Burial in Riverview Cemetery, Churubusco, Indiana with military honors.

Reporters uncovered other tidbits of information about Mr. Beavers:

He was a disabled Vietnam War Veteran, who held the rank of Private. He was an orphan, originally from Marion, Ind. He was never married, and never had children. He was honorably discharged. Where he worked (if he worked) after the war is a mystery. As the Brits say, ‘He kept himself to himself.’

After 3 weeks of searching for family to claim Mr. Beavers’ body for burial, no one came forward.

The Allen County coroner finally gave up. Thankfully, a local funeral home offered to conduct a funeral for Mr. Beavers and invited the public to attend to show their respect for him and his service.

Estimates of possibly (I’d say probably) more than 1,000 people – many from out of state—were there.

People of all ages attended the funeral. A woman I would suspect was close to 90 years old sat in front of me. A family with a baby sat beside me. Lots of teens were there, which was refreshing, as well as dozens of law enforcement and military groups. It was crowded but everyone was patient and kind.

The funeral lasted about 45 minutes. People prayed and a woman sang a beautiful rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’. There were even bagpipes.

The internment with military burial was in a town about 45 minutes away. From news reports apparently many people attended that as well.

Keep in mind it was the middle of a weekday a week before Christmas. Everyone there, including me, probably still has shopping to complete for next week.

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Obviously, we all felt it was worth our time to show respect for this veteran that had no social connections. None of us had anything to gain by being there.

As part of a military family, it was a privilege to honor Mr. Beavers by attending his funeral. I don’t know how he would have felt about it, had he known thousands of complete strangers would walk past his casket, most stopping for a moment and many adding a salute.

Hopefully, he would have been okay with that.

Still, it bothers me to think we may still have vets forgotten and feeling they are unappreciated. It may have been the way Mr. Beavers wanted to live, though it could not have been healthy for him to be behind doors much of his later years of life.

Perhaps people did try to reach out and were rebuffed. Perhaps things happened to Mr. Beavers while in military service that disturbed him so much he could not deal with people after the war.

Having had the privilege of interviewing a few Vietnam vets, I’ll say that I wish that period of American history could be re-written.

I wish we would have treated our vets more respectfully. As one Vietnam veteran I stood next to in line for viewing told me, “When I got off the boat in San Francisco, I didn’t know Americans protested our part in the war. That changed as soon as a man spit on me.”

This veteran went on to say he made it easier for the spitter to spit in the future (draw your own conclusions).

But he added that he went to Vietnam because in this country people are allowed to protest.

That’s freedom.

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It was not prudent or, in my opinion American, for the protester to spit on a soldier, but he was afforded the opportunity to stand on the street and publicly acknowledge something about our government he didn’t agree with because our government allows him to do so.

I repeat, that’s freedom. It’s not something every country offers in this world and I’m proud of our nation for still offering that freedom today 50 years later. I don’t take that for granted and hope you don’t either.

I just wish all of our vets could find peace with our responses to their service.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep repeating it. Thank a veteran. Better yet, go see him/her and make an effort to be their friend or at least someone who shows respect for their military service.

If any veteran reads this, please know the family of this writer appreciates what you have done for our country.

Thank you.

 

Interview with Navy vet; thanks to Civil Air Patrol

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What have you done today to brighten someone’s day?

I’ve decided the month of December (for once) will be filled with activities designed to bless others. A full-time job in past years kept me from helping/ volunteering/ spending time with people who needed some cheer.

Through my World War II interviews, I’ve connected with many older people who for the most part are living quiet lives. We chat for a couple of hours and then I move on, hoping our time together was pleasant and that the friendship will continue for a long time.

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How did you remember Pearl Harbor?

After much wrangling, I’ve convinced myself I cannot do everything—not enough energy, fuel for my vehicle, money or time. So while the Pearl Harbor event the city of Fort Wayne (IN) offered on December 7 at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum sounded interesting, it will have to wait until next year.

 curator Buchanan

My day was filled with the interview of Sam, a black Navy veteran. He served on the USS Yorktown. It was an exciting story, especially since Melissa Buchanan, Curator of Collections at Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Charleston, was present to conduct the interview. She is pictured on right in photo above.

Melissa had flown in from Charleston to get Sam’s interview. She is doing the same thing with other World War II seamen around the country who served on the Yorktown, which is at Charleston.

My story of Sam’s service in the Navy will appear in the News-Sentinel later this winter.  

 Belmont Lineberry K

I heard about Sam from a friend, Brian Lineberry who teaches social studies at Bellmont High School in Decatur, IN.

This semester he is teaching a course on World War II. It is an elective course which means every student in the class has chosen to attend and have an interest in World War II.

Bryan has connected me with several World War II vets whom he knows. Bryan also purchased a copy of my book and posted a 5-star review of it on Amazon.

WWII front bk cover

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

Here are some of his thoughts about the book: “As a social studies teacher, I find it fascinating that there were local people involved at all levels and theatres of the war that we study about in history. This book has helped to provide a local connection and stories to reference when teaching about the war. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the stories of all the men and women featured in your book. I could not put it down!

If you’d like to purchase my book, WWII Legacies: Stories of Northeast IN Veterans, for a Christmas gift, do so today! We send orders promptly so it should arrive before the holidays.

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After the interview with Sam, my husband and I attended a local Air Force Association luncheon. We met several World War II vets I’ve interviewed and several people purchased my book.

Col. Sam Conte was also present. In the late 1990s he and a wonderful staff of volunteers conducted weekly year-round meetings of the cadet squadron of the Civil Air Patrol.

Our son Chris began attending CAP when he 13 years old. It really set him on a course for military service. Through CAP, he began dreaming about attending the US Air Force Academy. Quite a dream!

While my husband and I had little idea of what to do to help our son learn how to prepare to apply to the US Air Force Academy (USAFA), the members of CAP did know what he should do.

Chris was accepted to the 2007 class of USAFA and we credit Sam and others for his success Air Force career.

It was a delight to see Sam again after several years and tell him how Chris’ Air Force career as a Captain with an MBA degree was progressing. That is a photo of us at the top of this post.

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The last item to mention is something Natalie Ross showed me at the Air Force Assn meeting. She had a New Testament that had belonged to her uncle, Sergeant Carl Herron Ross of Avilla IN. It was equipped with a gold-plated steel front cover. Sergeant Ross carried it over his heart. He also carried a watch that belonged to his mother. She gave it to him to carry during the war and it was later given to Natalie.

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Today I’m off to interview a guy who was on the USS State Louis stationed at Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Should be interesting!

Thank a veteran!