The Date was August 7, 1942. The Place was the Solomon Islands during World War II. The Allied Forces
were stationed on Guadalcanal, the largest of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. At that particular time, The Japanese
Forces had built up strong resistance on three of the islands north of Guadalcanal: 1) Tulagi, Gavutu, and Florida. The Allies
had to eliminate that Japanese Resistance, but first, they had to take out a 150mm Shore Battery set up by The Japanese. That
had to go first, so The Allies bombed Tulagi, then sent a couple of Battalions to Tulagi to make sure the battery had been destroyed. One of the Allied Boats was
the "Henderson Boat." Aboard that boat was a man named Gene--a Pharmacist Mate, First Class with the US Navy and the Hospital
Corp. Gene was a hard working dedicated Sailor with a lot of ambition, as he eventually wanted to be promoted to Chief.
Fellow Toastmasters honored guests, this ambition compelled this "Man named Gene" to execute acts
of heroism- acts that would earn him the title of "The Guadalcanal Hero."
The first act of heroism occurred when the Henderson Boat got stuck on a coral reef during the mission,
and was under heavy enemy fire. The crew of the boat ducked low to avoid being hit by enemy fire including the Coxswain. Gene,
seeing, this left his post and acted as the eyes of the coxswain, not worrying about his own safety. Gene was not hit, and
the boat landed on Tulagi with very few casualties, Soon, that Japanese Resistance was temporarily quelled, and The Allies
took control of the Islands. But the Japanese would soon be back with reinforcements.
A few weeks later, a small Japanese Force landed at Aola 30 miles east of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal.
A Battalion of Allied Marines was sent to execute a "Night raid' on the Japanese Force at Aola. During that time one of the
boats capsized, and several Marine Soldiers were adrift in waters swarming with man eating sharks. Again, not worrying about
his own life and safety, Gene dove into shark infested waters and for a whole hour, he pulled out 10 survivors from the shark
infested waters, saving their lives. Gene was the recommended for the Navy Cross, but he received the Bronze Star instead.
Japan was not about to give up, as General Tojo was out for domination of the Western Hemisphere,
which is why Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in the first place. Losing the Solomon Islands was not acceptable to that madman.
In late October of 1942, a heavy battles between the Allies and the Japanese ensued on the Big Island of Guadalcanal.
On November 3, Gene spotted a wounded soldier lying out in the battlefield in the heat of battle. Under heavy enemy fire,
Gene ran out and began to pull the wounded soldier towards the nearest Aid Station. During all the heavy shelling, coconut
trees fell over creating big obstacles between Gene and the Aid Station. Finally, gene attempted to pull the wounded soldier
over the last obstacle between him and the Aid Station, when a Japanese Sniper got Gene in his sights. and shot him.
That day, on November 3, 1942, Gene died an American War Hero, and was dubbed "The Guadalcanal Hero."
He was recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor, but this time, he did receive the Navy Cross, Posthumously. Today,
a street at the Navy Base in San Diego is named after the Guadalcanal Hero.
Gene's Father, who served in WWI also served in WWII. His name was Chief Warrant Officer, Leroy
Edwin Baxter (Grandpa Baxter to me) Uncle Gene was the uncle I never got to meet, but I can stand up here and say I am very
proud that he was my uncle. A couple of years ago at Mountain View Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, special medals
were presented to veterans who served our country during WWII. Uncle Gene received another posthumous medal, and they needed
someone to be the keeper of Uncle Gene's Medal, and I was chosen--an honor which I am proud of.
Memorial Day is a day when we take time to honor those who died to preserve the freedom and democracy
we all share in this great country of ours. Whenever we observe Memorial Day, and when ever we pledge our allegiance to the
flag which is the symbol of our liberty, freedom, and democracy, we should take time to think about those who sacrificed their
lives on the battlefield so we can continue enjoy our freedom, our democracy, and "liberty and justice for all"--people like
my Uncle Gene.