When Earl hit his eighteenth birthday he joined the Navy during WWII. To be on the safe side, he entered as a medic, not knowing that medics in the Navy filled both Navy and Marine positions. He stood in line, listening to someone going down the line saying: -Marine, marine, marine. . . when Earl was reached, the words hit his ears: “Navy. . . it was the first of many blessings to come.
Earl was on the second largest troop transport in the fleet a converted ocean liner. It was also fast, allowing it to steam on its own without being a sitting duck in convoys. Earl’s quarters were a private stateroom”an amazing luxury. One bed. One footlocker. One porthole.
Earl worked primarily with the men who were suffering from shell shock, although he often dealt with men whose bodies came aboard with missing parts. These events left endless silent scars inside. He bled as much as the injured.
The ship traveled three oceans. Bombay was always pleasant with families waiting ashore to take the men home to dinner, treating them like family and of course introducing them to their daughters in hopes for better lives with the young American boys.
One trip to New York found the ship full of German prisoners who were so shocked that the Statue of Liberty was still standing that they rushed to one side to stare. The ship listed. They had to be forced evenly across the deck, port and starboard. German propaganda convinced them that New York was leveled.
Earl’s stories were mostly fun with occasional drifts into the horrors of the medical unit. He didn’t talk much about those events. WWII broke him in many ways. He hid deep pain for the rest of his life. But he found enough strength to keep giving as a minister until he died in his mid eighties”broken medic to broken minister but tough enough to persevere. No one ever knew his deepest feelings. They were locked forever in a footlocker with one porthole open to God.