Yesterday on my way to Gulfport, I made a stop at the Mississippi Vietnam Memorial in Ocean Springs. Since they build submarines not too far from there, there is also a new submariners memorial on the site. Part of that Memorial lists all the submarines that the US has ever lost and how many men went down with the ship. There were two older gentlemen at the submariner’s memorial and I was lucky enough to get to overhear their conversation. Not wanting to intrude on a conversation between two veteran’s who were obviously touched by the memorial I simply listened to one of them tell his story. He pointed out that the 90 listed as being lost on the USS Swordfish might or might not be accurate. He was on that ship, but had to be left at Midway in 1945 with the mumps just days before it went down. He talked about how when he heard them sound that they were leaving port he ran out of the hospital and had to be chased down by the hospital corpmen. They told him that they had picked up someone to fill in for him while he was in the hospital but he was never sure if that was true or if they told him that to get him to go back to bed. There was a certain sadness in his voice, even all these years later, about the shipmates who went down without him, and the “replacement” who went down because he had the mumps.
I guess that is one of the “vagaries of war” but I think it also displays how brave and dedicated our armed forces have been through the years. Here’s a man who survived the war because he was unlucky enough to contact the mumps during his service, and you could still hear, almost 60 years later, how much he wanted to be on that ship, just doing his job.
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