In honor of Independence Day, Buckner Senior Living is taking pause to celebrate all the heroic veterans who live in our communities across Texas. Joe Griffin, a resident of Buckner Villas in Austin, served in World War II in the 4th Marine Division where he set several outstanding records during the war. But he also remembers the pain of losing some his fellow Marines while serving the United States.
On May 29, 1944, Griffin sailed for Saipan, a Japanese stronghold in the Marianas Islands. During this battle, Griffin suffered wounds from rounds of rifle fire as they took cover in a self-dug foxhole.There, the United States military would win their first battle on Japanese territory that had not been added prior to Japan’s aggressive expansion in 1941-1942.
After 24 days of fighting, Saipan was secured. The victory came at great cost, however. Japanese troops established what they believed to be impenetrable high ground on Mount Tapotchau. U.S. forces fought through areas nicknamed “Death Valley” and “Purple Heart Ridge” for the many casualties suffered there. In all, more than 3,400 American soldiers died in the battle and another 10,364 were wounded.
Griffin suffered wounds from rounds of rifle fire as they took cover in a self-dug foxhole. He 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.
“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 says. “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.”
In 1984, 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 says. “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 more than 50 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,” says 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.”