When I was a little boy my grandpa told me stories about his time in the navy during World War II. He told me about the shrapnel he still had in his legs, and how he spent hours treading water in the ocean waiting to be rescued after his ship was attacked.

It wasn’t until I was much older, and he was nearing the end of his life, that he told me more about the story.

His ship, the USS Dickerson, was hit by two kamikaze planes. The first was coming right toward Grandpa at the front of the ship. He was manning the guns on the bow. When he realized what was about to happen, he began to run toward the middle of the ship instinctively until he realized, that’s exactly where the plane was heading. He turned around and went back to the front before that first plane struck. The second plane struck almost immediately afterward. Both right where he had been intending to run for cover.

There’s much more about the chaos that ensued. Suffice it to say, 54 lost their lives. 26, including Grandpa, were wounded. The ship was lost.

I was a boy when I heard the stories for the first time. It’s only now that I realize, he was just a boy when it all happened.

23 years old.

54 other boys never returned home.

We remember them today.

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