Sagora Senior Living is proud to have many resident veterans living life at our communities. As we celebrate and recognize Veterans Day today, we would like to take a few moments and share with you a few stories, pictures and details to some of our amazing resident veterans.
Aberdeen Heights (Tulsa, OK)–
Vernon Lytle was one of five Lytle boys to serve their country and was drafted in to the army in August of 1943. He served in the 363th Infantry Regiment of the 91st Infantry Division. On a mission in Scaperia, Italy, he was the only survivor of his mission and was evacuated back to the United States to recuperate after sustaining severe injuries. Vernon went on to marry his high school sweetheart and after he was discharged, went on to work for IBM for over 60 years. Vernon has four children, ten grandchildren and twelve and a half great-grandchildren.
Howard Blagg enlisted in to the Army and was immediately sent to Brussels to help fight against Nazi Germany at the age of 19. Howard was taken captive as a prisoner of war and sent to be interrogated along with others. Howard was then shipped to Stalag 2A in Neubrandenburg to work in grim conditions. After a month had passed, the Russian Army overran the camp and left the American POWs behind. Howard and the rest of the group finally reached the 2nd Airborne of the U.S. after walking for four days.
Heritage Place (Burleson, TX)–
Clevan enlisted in the United States Navy in February of 1944 at the age of only seventeen, and because of his young age, had to have his parents consent. Upon completion of boot camp in San Diego, Clevan went to school to become a Signalman. He was assigned to the USS Bismarck Sea and was a part of The Liberation of the Philippines mission and the Battle of Iwo Jima.
On February 21 of 1945, the USS Bismarck was hit by two kamikazes, giving the Captain orders to abandon ship. Clevan’s life preserver had a major malfunction and did not work properly but was able to make it to a nearby floater net and locked arms with a fellow buddy, waiting in agony and despair hoping for a rescue. Clevan states, “I can say if you’ve never heard a ship die, I hope you never do.” After an hour in the dark, a destroyer came to rescue the survivors which were only a third of his shipmates.
After being honorably discharged from the Navy, Clevan returned home to finish his senior year in high school and went on to meet and marry his wife of 67 years, Bobbie.
Lakestone Terrace (Granbury, TX)-
Lloyd McJunkin served in the US Navy during the Korean War conflict and on active duty or Naval reserve between 1952 and 1960, Lloyd and his stories are quite a sight to behold and listen to, which is why Lloyd is our Veterans Day resident highlight.
Upon finishing boot camp, Lloyd attended the Radio School on the Naval Base in San Diego, eventually attending the Advanced Radio School in Charleston, South Carolina at the Naval Training Center. Lloyd served on board the USS LST 1144, which had a home-port of Norfolk, Va., and sailed throughout the North Atlantic to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, as far east as North Africa coastal areas, Bermuda, Cuba, Puerto Rico and even the Virgin Islands. While tied up at the dock in Newfoundland, the ship Lloyd and his crew members were aboard was rammed by a freighter one morning in a dense fog. It left an opening in the port side at mid-ship, twelve feet vertical, three feet wide and four feet across the main deck. Thankfully, it was just above the waterline and penetrated into the sleeping area of the crew’s quarter and since everyone was eating breakfast, there were no injuries.
About 200 miles from their location, a hurricane made its way through the ocean and split apart a Norwegian freighter, prompting them to send out an SOS. The ship Lloyd was on was only doing about 10 knots on the outer edge of the storm and there was no way to get to the freighter before it sank. Lloyd relayed their SOS to two other USS Navy ships that were much closer and both responded. The Captain of the Norwegian freighter ordered his crew to abandon ship, but he himself refused to leave. In the event that the Captain abandoned ship and the freighter stayed afloat, the portion that survived became property of any ship that found it. The owners of the Norwegian freighter had to “order” the Captain to leave the ship, and soon after, the ship sank.
Excitement was just beginning for Lloyd and his crewmembers as before they left their port in Newfoundland and before the hurricane had developed, they spot welded a “patch” steel plate over the hole where their ship had been rammed. Once out in the open waters, a Chief Petty Officer advised the Captain that if the plate covering the large hole started to break loose, it could pop off in a matter of seconds. From that very moment, there was a Sailor secured to a line holding a lantern during the night and watching for any indication that the patch was splitting away! Each hour, Sailors rotated and replaced the one secured to the line. As for Lloyd’s role, he states, “I remember I never felt so happy that I had gone to radio school in place of being a boatswain on the deck crew!” All ended well and the ship made it back safe and sound and the appropriate repairs were made. This just happened to be Lloyd’s first cruise aboard a ship and wondered for several days if maybe he should have joined the Air Force!