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A ‘charmed’ life | Langley veteran recalls service, trip to D.C.
His military service was short and provided Herbert “Herb” Bacon, 95, with a lifetime of memories.
Bacon, a retired Boeing mechanic and 23-year South Whidbey resident, recently was flown to Washington, D.C. to visit the veterans memorials there. Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit that sends veterans to the capitol of the United States of America to see monuments dedicated for their service. The group selected Bacon, who had a short service in the U.S. Navy of three years and three months.
Bacon said he was most touched not by the towering Lincoln Memorial or the National World War II Memorial, but by the welcome he and several dozen others found upon their arrival.
“The thing that was most moving to me was how we were received … I was really awestruck,” said Bacon, looking out over Bells Beach and Saratoga Passage. “People were wanting to shake my hand, take pictures with me.”
For Bacon, who doesn’t really identify himself as a veteran who sacrificed much more than a few years as a Navy medic, technically a 2nd Class pharmacist, taking part in the tour was a trip down memory lane.
He remembered the solider trying to get out of the draft by faking colorblindness. Bacon could identify with the unnamed military man, as he too tried to avoid being drafted. That’s why he enlisted.
“I got in right under the gun,” said Bacon who joined the Navy on Nov. 16, 1942. “The next day the draft was enacted.”
“I didn’t want to be drafted.”
Bacon never saw combat during his service as a Navy pharmacist with the Pacific Fleet. He spent time aboard the PCS-1390, which he called a submarine hunter, though it was in transit to be decommissioned in California. Bacon was grateful for not having seen war up close.
“It felt like the Good Lord was takin’ a liking to me,” he said. “I wasn’t shying away from it though.”
Most of Bacon’s duty was spent giving physical evaluations to soldiers and, for a time, checking in on patients in a psychiatric ward at Mare Island in Vallejo, Calif. His duties were far from illustrious, he admits, as he cleaned bed pans and changed sheets for patients, some of whom were dealing with war fatigue, also called combat stress reaction. He recalled several stories about working there and at a hospital at Treasure Island, though they were not entirely appropriate for publication in a family newspaper.
“I often wonder about some of the patients I took care of,” he said.
On his trip to the memorials in D.C., he was the one being taken care of. As a sign of solidarity, Bacon said, he and the other veterans used a wheelchair despite having full use of his legs. During one stop, he said they ran into a march on the National Monument and were delayed a bit before getting off the bus.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” Bacon said. “We didn’t have any bones to grind, and neither did they.”
Bacon doesn’t normally celebrate Veterans Day, calling it “just another day.” It is, however, a chance for him to remember his short service — things like soldiers celebrating the end of WWII by commandeering a streetcar in San Francisco and spinning it around and around like a merry-go-round — and the people he met.
“It’s a recollection of memories,” he said.