By Patrick Loftus
“Wait until your father gets home!” Oh the number of times this was uttered by my mother in my young years, nobody will know.
John T. Loftus, a devout Catholic, husband, and father. He was as stern as you would expect anyone of his generation to be, especially knowing his background in the Marines. He attended church every Sunday and went to work as a pattern maker at GM, and was President of St. Vincent de Paul for St. Louis Parish in Mt. Clemens.
Sometime in the mid-’90s, I was told he fought at Iwo Jima and my perspective was changed. However, he never would engage in a discussion with our family.
In 2003, he was hospitalized four times and we thought his days were numbered. My wife asked him about his huge tattoo on his shoulder from his hospital bed and he stated that he and 3 others, Ralph Neild, Mel Lavine, and Leroy Nie all received identical tattoos in Hawaii prior to deployment to the Pacific Theater.
When my wife and I got home, within minutes I found Mel Lavine and spoke to him on the phone and assured him that if my dad recovered, we would visit him in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
In the summer of 2004, my son Trevor, my dad and I all drove there and the tearful reunion ensued. Mel’s basement was full of Marine literature and photos of the Legal Eagles. His friend had lost both legs to diabetes 6 years prior, but he got around from his special bed with an artificial leg and we went to eat. Mel received a silver star for his heroism, Purple Heart and various other tributes.
Prior to my dad’s death in 2007, I found out James F. Christ was writing a book about my dad’s company – the 5th Marines H 3 27 called IWO: Assault on Hell. It was a meticulous account of 33 days of brutal combat against the Japanese.
Bob Brutinel, a man who shared a bunker with my dad, is living in Arizona. He owns his own plumbing business and goes to work most days. His distinguished service is well documented in several battles and his expertise as a flamethrower at Iwo Jima was dangerous but effective.
In 2018, after years of searching for relatives of Leroy Nie and Ralph Neild, I was successful. Leroy was killed in action during the 3rd week of battle on the island and left his family with little detail, but was deeply loved by his fellow Marines. A successful Facebook search led me to his great-niece, Jacqueline Nie, and Leroy’s uncle, John Nie. Leroy was from Kentucky. I hope to meet them someday soon. Vicki Neild Wiese contacted me last summer to complete the Legal Eagle puzzle.
She shared with me that her father Ralph rarely shared any stories from his military service. He became a professor at the University of Nebraska in the field of Agriculture. My dad shared a laugh with Mel on that story. She has stayed in contact with me and has shared details with her family as well.
Other friends of my dad with whom he shared stories were Billy Joe Cagle, former Oklahoma running back and Hardy Brown who played for the Green Bay Packers.
Let’s never forget the sacrifices of our Veterans and those currently serving in the military. Talk to your parents and grandparents, neighbors, members of your church and listen to their humble responses. Their stories are everywhere in and around your community. Semper Fi!
To read more from James F. Christ’s book, 5th Marines H 3 27 called IWO: Assault on Hell, click here.
Patrick J. Loftus, a native from Mount Clemens and a 1976 graduate of L‘Anse Creuse High School, has lived in Port Huron since his marriage to Nancy in 1988. He graduated from Western Michigan University and earned his teaching certification in 1984 in German and History. His profession took him to Carlyle, Illinois and East Detroit. Besides instruction, he coached soccer, tennis, Quiz Bowl, German Quiz Bowl, and Debate. Patrick had an enthusiastic German Club and took students to Germany in 1985, one of five trips he made mostly to German speaking lands. Mr. Loftus closely follows state and national politics. In his spare time, he follows and watches sports. He follows FC Köln and enjoys traveling. Patrick places international exchange students at CETUSA (non-profit) in St. Clair, Macomb, Sanilac and Lapeer Counties as a Local Coordinator.
Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to,“Like” us on Facebook!
Disclaimer: Blue Water Healthy Living is an online magazine located in Port Huron, Michigan. Our purpose is to promote healthy living by showcasing the Blue Water Area, its people, issues and surroundings. This online magazine is devoted to providing healthy living related stories, local happenings, and commentary. Often inspiring and uplifting, our stories come from our heart and soul to promote the enjoyment of a more fulfilling Blue Water Area lifestyle. The material on this web site is provided for informational and amusement purposes only and is not to be confused with any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of Blue Water Healthy Living.