FOX 26 News observes this Veterans Day with a trio of tales about Houston-area men who served during World War II. Their generation is rapidly disappearing.
When US Marines captured Iwo Jima from the Japanese in 1944, "thirteen" was Bert Dawson's lucky number because only 13% of his company made it off the island alive.
And he was one of them.
"I'm trying to bury it. Trying to bury it," said Dawson. "We did not have any psychiatrists in those days. We used beer joints. Many, many a night I've heard Japanese voices saying, ‘Marine, you die, you die.'"
The Japanese entered the war by way of Pearl Harbor. For most of us, it's a day that will live in infamy.
But for US Navy sailor Tracy Lawrence, Pearl Harbor delivered a wartime reunion with his brothers. All four of them ended up at that Hawaiian Navy base at the same time.
Finding each other? That was another matter. Lawrence pried the information from a sympathetic soul.
"She says, ‘I knew what you coming for,'" Lawrence remembered. "I says, ‘Well, my goodness, why don't you tell me something?' She says, ‘I can't tell you anything but if I was looking for them, I'd go to Pier 7.' Bang! It was about a mile; I ran it in about five minutes, I think."
Driving a fast car? Child's play for a guy who was in the belly of a B-24 bomber shot down over Romania in 1944.
"We had two engines knocked out," recalled Jack Morledge. "Tail was vibrating, it was hit real bad, the bomb bay was on fire. We were just about ready to blow up."
Morledge and nine others bailed out, landing right in the rifle-sights of Nazi-aligned Romanians.
He spent about six weeks in a POW camp before being released. But if you think Morledge had had enough, you don't know Jack.
"I really wasn't ready to quit, tell you the truth," admitted Jack Morledge. "But I won't complain."
World War II gave the greatest generation an opportunity to serve. Tracy Lawrence and his brothers were glad they did.
"We didn't come home quite as good a shape as we went in," said Lawrence. "But we all made it back. And I think that was God's gift to us, let us all come home."
These men all left the battlefield. But if you could ask Bert Dawson, he'd tell you: the battlefield never really leaves you.
"I've heard the screams, I've heard the cries and I've witnessed the pain," said Dawson. "Yes. I'll die with it."
Bert H. Dawson died on September 12, 2012. He was 90 years old.
Tracy Lawrence died on June 7, 2012. He was 94 years old.
Jack Morledge died on October 14, 2012. He was 89 years old, according to his birth certificate.
However, Morledge's driver's license and social security card indicate he was 90 years old. His niece tells FOX 26 News, that's because Morledge lied about his age so he could enlist and serve in World War II.