In memory of service

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jarad A. Denton
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
"I think about the people that never came back, I lost some good friends."

At first glance Vern Faust looks like someone's grandfather - his soft, ordinary and unassuming demeanor reveal little about the man behind the glasses and black suspenders.

But at 86, Vern Faust, a former U.S. Navy coxswain third class and World War II veteran, is anything but ordinary. He served his country honorably in both the European and South Pacific theaters, before separating from the military July 6, 1946.

"I served aboard the U.S.S. McCook, a destroyer in the Atlantic that escorted convoys over to Europe," he said. "German submarines positioned themselves throughout the route, waiting for us to reach the Mediterranean. Our ships would string out for miles, and the German subs would wait on the bottom and pick the merchant ships off."

Mr. Faust said he lost good friends on the merchant ships during these missions. If a merchant ship fell out of the convoy, it would be left behind as an easy, often defenseless target for the submarines. He said sometimes the crew of the ship often chose to stay on, at the risk of their own lives, to try and repair the vessel.

"I have nothing but respect for the merchant mariners," Mr. Faust said. "They were helpless in these convoys. Most of them had no guns, and their speed was only eight or ten knots maximum."

After Mr. Faust served aboard the McCook, he was transferred to the South Pacific and finished his tour on a minesweeper ship. As a coxswain, he managed the navigation and steering of the ship.

"We swept through and made sure the big ships could get through to Tokyo safely," he said. "It was here that I really lost some good friends. Even though it was after the war, we still lost two ships."

Mr. Faust said the first ship through a minefield would traverse it alone, sweeping for mines. During one of the sweeps, a ship was hit and went down with all hands.

"One of my close friends was on that ship," he said. "We would pick up the mail together for our ships. I remember trying to pick him up to collect the mail the morning it happened. He told me he was getting out soon and could go home and see his two little kids.

Mr. Faust said they shook hands and hugged before going their separate ways. He never saw him again.

"That day the ship got hit and everyone on board died."

For Mr. Faust, Veteran's Day is a time to remember his fallen friends. He said the commercialization of the holiday cheapens its true meaning, especially to veterans.

"I think the whole world isn't following through anymore," he said. "Stores have these Veteran's Day sales - that bothers me a lot. The men and women in uniform today are some of the most honorable people in the world. They're trying to protect our country, and we definitely need them."

He said when he was in the military, very few servicemembers were married.

"We were all young, 18 and 19 year-old kids," he said. "Now our military members have wives and families. It reminds me of my friend who never got to go home and see his kids. I have nothing but admiration for today's military."

Editor's Note: This story is the first part of a series highlighting our Nation's veterans.