As the nation celebrates Veterans Day, the State Bar of Texas would like to honor some of those who served our country by spotlighting interviews from The Veterans’ History Project, a joint project between the Texas Court Reporters Association and the State Bar of Texas. The following post is an excerpt from an interview with John Mark Blaze who served in the United States Coast Guard from 1942-1945.
Our ship would go all over the Philippine Islands to Mindanao to Samar to Kurgan to Borneo, wherever American troops were that needed stuff, we would bring it to them. In Mindanao, we had a gun fight. My – my eyes were burned up pretty bad. So then they had to take me from there to back to Manila and put me on a hospital ship, the auxiliary hospital, called the Refuge AH1, Auxiliary Hospital 1, the Refuge.
They left my sea bags and everything on the ship. Now, I had no ship – I had no place to go except be on the ear, eyes, nose, and throat there.
A little story happens while I was a patient on eyes, nose, and throat ward there. My eyes were bandaged. My mail was brought to me from my wife, and they stuck it under the pillow of my bed, and they said that there would be somebody within the next two or three days come by to be able to read my mail to me.
In the meantime, a sailor came up and asked me – said, Hey, Sailor, do you mind if I read your letters to you? I said, Yeah, please. And he looked at the postmark, and he said, You're from Crown Point, Indiana? I said, No, I'm from Gary. He said, I'm from Gary, too. And so the story goes. We met there in a little ward in the Philippines about 12, 13,000 miles away from home.
Now, I never seen the guy, and he had what they called infectious sinus. They could – nothing could cure him, because the only medicines they had at that time was penicillin. So they had to take him back to the United States. Now, I didn't have his name written down or nothing. I woke up the next day, and I asked about the guy who read the letters, and he said he's gone. He left.
About five years later, I was a chef at a restaurant in Gary. A guy came in to sell me meat, and he was a driver for the Wonder Bread Company, and he was kind of black market at that time, and he had a shelf underneath his truck that he had – a dry ice down there, and he had meat he was trying to sell to restaurants and whatnot. And he kept pestering me for about three or four days, and I wouldn't buy any meat from him.
Then he asks me, he said, Were you in service? And I said, Yeah. He said, I was, too. He said, Where were you? I said, South Pacific. He said, Mine was, too. He said, But I got a medical discharge. I had an infectious sinus. I said, Oh my God, were you on the Refuge? He said, Yeah. His name was Frank Jason, and we became lifelong friends after that. Read the full interview.