“We swabbed the decks going over,” said Milton Brown, an 87-year-old Dorsey resident, “but, by God, we didn’t swab them on the way back. We’d done our work.”
That line earned Brown a good laugh at the Tupelo Veterans Museum on Friday.
Six members of B Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division gathered in Tupelo with friends and family members to swap stories about the old days.
“When I get on the telephone, things happen,” Brown said. “Really, I just invited them down. They wanted to come.”
The group’s been getting together since 1986. It started as a meeting of men, and it’s become a meeting of families.
Glen Erwin died in 2007, but his wife, Joyce Erwin, 85, drove to Tupelo from Bedford, Texas, with her sister and niece to enjoy the fellowship.
“This is the second time I’ve come since he died,” she said.
Bob Mallette passed away in 2004, but 82-year-old Meri Mallette of Baltimore has kept up with her husband’s buddies.
“It’s like family. It’s like coming to see your family,” she said. “I see these guys more often than I see my own family.”
Over the years, the group has met in places like St. Louis and Houston, Texas. For the past two years, Tupelo has been the host city.
In addition to the museum, they stopped by Brice’s Crossroads on Friday. Today’s plans include visits to the Tupelo Automobile Museum and the Elvis Presley Birthplace.
“There’s six of us. A lot of them have been dying off,” said Jesse Heil, 82, of St. Louis. “We used to have 50 in the group. There’s some we can’t get in touch with. We don’t know if they’re dead or alive.”
The Marines provided artillery support for the infantry in the South Pacific. They operated the Pack Howitzer, as well as .30- and .50-caliber machine guns, at the battles of New Britain, Peleliu and Okinawa.
“We were known as ‘lucky,’” joked Roy Ayscue, 89, of Henderson, N.C.
“We didn’t lose too many men. That’s the truth,” Heil said. “The hell of it was going through the landings. You didn’t know what was going to happen.”
According to Ayscue, he and his buddies had a cake walk during the war compared to what others faced.
“If you’re not in the infantry, you don’t know what it was all about,” he said. “I wasn’t in the infantry. I don’t know nothing.”
But he knows about being thousands of miles from home, and he knows about smoke, sweat, blood and fear.
“The Pack Howitzer was loud,” Ayscue said. “And the recoil? Man.”
World War II ended in 1945, but the memories endure for those who served.
“There’s a lot of it you can’t forget,” Brown said.
“We had fun,” added James Tynes of Jayess, “but we had hard times together, too.”
This weekend in Tupelo is about sharing stories with old friends and remembering fallen comrades. The plan is to eat well and smile often.
“I don’t see how this bunch won the war,” Brown said.
That line got another big laugh because everybody in his bunch got the job done.
Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or email@example.com.