For local vets, Fourth of July means more than fireworks

Joe Griffin, a resident of Buckner Villas, served in World War II in the 4th Marine Division, which was formed in January of 1944 and set several outstanding records during the war. He recalls with difficulty the pain of losing some of his fellow Marines while serving the U.S.

Griffin agrees that there are moments when every solider believes he might lose his life on the battlefield.

“Many ask me if I was scared during the battles I fought, but I was not; I was just concerned about the odds of dying,” Griffin said. “You are facing a reality that you may die. You may not make it to the next day, and you may not see your family again. When you are landing and there are large artillery shells hitting boats next to yours, your eyes grow wide as you think the next one might hit us, but you have to keep fighting. All you can do is keep fighting. The will of God is the only hope you have for staying alive.”

On May 29, 1944, Griffin and the rest of the 4th Division sailed for Saipan, stronghold of the Marianas Islands. During this battle, Griffin suffered wounds from rounds of rifle fire as they took cover in a self-dug foxhole.

After 24 days of fighting, Saipan was secured but with a cost of 5,981 Americans killed, wounded or missing. Griffin spent the rest of his days recovering in Pearl Harbor, Oakland Bay and Corpus Christi and was discharged when he was well enough to return to his home in Texas.

In 1984, forty years after the battle, Griffin went back to Saipan and found the place where he was shot and wounded in the foxhole.

“America has never been as unified as it was during the time that I served,” Griffin said. “I was extremely proud of my country then, as we had come together as a people to defend and protect the very rights and values we held closest to our hearts. We cannot live in the past, but we can certainly learn from it.”

There are 39 veterans at Buckner Villas, and the staff enjoy hearing their memories of adventures as soldiers.

“We feel privileged to hear about their experiences and learn more about the wars, battles and people that forever changed the country we live in,” said Doyle Antle, executive director of Buckner Villas. “Hearing their stories and seeing their memorabilia bestows on us a great pride and appreciation for everything they fought for during their service and everything they still believe in today.”

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