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Veterans like Loyce Deen made U.S. great

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By Mark W. Hendrickson

I’ve written in the past about how my Pop carried with him a haunting memory from his time aboard the aircraft carrier Essex in World War II.
Anti-aircraft fire had killed a turret gunner during a sortie. Pop, whose job it was to repair and prepare planes for the next mission, went up to inspect the plane as soon as it landed and saw the gunner’s body. At Pop’s recommendation, the captain of the Essex gave the order to bury the man in the plane in which he had given his life for his country.
This burial at sea was unique. It was the only time during World War II that a valuable plane was ordered to be used as a coffin.
The burial itself was filmed and included in the 1950s series, “Victory at Sea.” Pop saw it for the first time when it was rebroadcast 20-25 years ago.
Seeing that on the Essex dredged up disturbing memories of what Pop had seen on that long-ago day and for years afterward he would retell that vivid story many nights after consuming copious quantities of Jim Beam.
The story didn’t end for me with Pop’s passing in 1999, because several years later, I stumbled onto a website about the airman who was buried in his plane.


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