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Dedication to our Servicemen

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Posted: Friday, November 9, 2018 12:00 am

The year was 1943 when 17-year old James Robert Peebles convinced his widowed mother to sign permission for her oldest son to enter the United States Marine Corps. He would leave his $5 a week job as a pin boy at the bowling alley taking away the sole income of his mother and three siblings until his military payments would reach home. After boot camp in North Carolina, the New Castle, Pennsylvania enlistee would make his way to San Diego where he would ship out on the General Ernst. They would cross the International Dateline on Christmas, his 18th birthday, skipping a day for the exchange.

On New Years Day, 1945, after two weeks training on Russell Island, he joined the 6th Marine Division headed to Guadalcanal. There, his unit prepared for Iwo Jima but news of the taking of Mt. Suribachi stopped his unit’s deployment. Their reassignment was to Okinawa. There was no resistance as the three marine divisions landed.

It was the agenda of the Japanese General to “pick them off” once they were stuck on the island. On the island were an estimated 125,000 Japanese challenged by 

60,000 Marines and four Army Divisions. The Marines headed north receiving less fire while the Army, to the south, was pinned down suffering many causalities.

When the Marines finished their assignments to the north, they were brought south to relieve the Army. It was there that they took a direct hit from snipers. James, his colonel, plus two others were sent on a special mission. Of the four, only the colonel made it through uninjured. One of his colleagues was shot in the jaw while another took a fatal

bullet to the chest. James had been sitting in a crouched

position in a gulley with his legs bent towards his chest when a shot was fired. The bullet entered and pass through both legs never hitting bones nor his chest. From 9 am, he laid wounded while further rounds were fired at him. Binding his wounds, he laid knowing nightfall would bring the Japanese “to finish me off.” But his colonel would not let him down and a group of rescuers arrived around 7 pm removing him on a tarp. He was transported to a ship

serving as a naval hospital (the Comfort) floating next to a

sister hospital, the Solace. Though under protection of a special war code, the Solace was hit by a kamikaze pilot killing over 120 on board. The Comfort turned off its lights and set course towards Tinian. While in recovery, another patient told of a hidden weapon stored on the Island…it was the Atomic Bomb that would end the war.

Eventually, Robert would make his way back to New Castle where he would meet and marry Ruth, his bride of 66 years. It was for health

reasons of their oldest son, Tommy that the family headed to Florida. Seems the north had too much pollution as apparent in what Ruth called “black snow.” In Homestead, the family would grow in numbers from generation to generation.

We talked about what went through his mind while wounded, waiting to die. Did you believe in God? Did you pray? Without hesitation Robert replied, “I was not a Christian at the time. The only thing I knew was how to make the sign of the cross…saw it on TV several times. But for some reason God kept me alive. I became a Christian through my son Tommy who was picked up to attended Sunday school. One Sunday, I decided to drive him myself.” After going to a service Robert, Ruth and Tommy accepted Christ as a family.

Robert proudly flies the American Flag in his front yard. On display inside is a framed collection of military medals including a Purple Heart given to those wounded or killed in action. Just shy of 92, Robert’s mind is as sharp as a tack remembering dates and times of the past. It is apparent why God kept this crusader alive. He is a living example to all who are blessed to cross his path.

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