Dean Graham, a military veteran and client of Big Sky Seniors Services had a story to tell. He joined the Marines in the summer of 1943 and upon completing basic training; he was shipped to Hawaii for 3 months. During this time he was assigned to a division and prepared for battle as a PFC in the Combat Infantry Division. Dean’s first deployment would be to the Headquarters-Communications Department in the Philippines. The mission was to invade Okinawa on April 1, 1945. He would fight each day as ordered, all the while fighting to stay alive and keep his fellow soldiers safe. Not much time would pass until he was forced to face the most difficult decision of his life.
While spending time on Japanese patrol, he was leading his troops along side his Sergeant, when without warning his sergeant was shot by enemy fire and fell directly in front of him. Standing in shock and horror, Dean reacted quickly to reach him and asses his injuries. Fortunately, it wasn’t fatal as his Sergeant was able to get up and run back to the patrol. Dean followed and came upon him having his wounds bandaged in the middle of a field. He and another soldier volunteered to stay with him and keep him safe. The captain in charge made it clear that soldiers who are in the same infantry do not stay in large numbers for any reason. If there were an enemy bomb or invasion they would prefer not to lose a large number of men at once, and therefore Dean could not stay and help his sergeant. He was ordered to take his rifle and stand post approximately 30 – 40 yards away. As the battle continued, he lost sight of his sergeant and whether or not he made it out safely. Like many dark shadows that haunt him following the war, upon returning home he still does not know if his sergeant returned home, or lost his life on the battlefield that day. This has remained with him for over 60 years and will until he can rest with the knowledge he so desperately seeks.
A mere month after returning to the Philippines, May 4, 1945 Dean was shot by a Japanese sniper. Adding insult to injury, he was in the middle of a rice field which was nothing more than mud and water. Attempting to find cover so as to ward off any other bullets, he spied a clump of weeds and dove for it. He stayed there as one shot after another whistled past him. “It’s funny” he said, “but you can be glad for strange reasons…I’m forever thankful that the Japanese were such good shots; hitting the same spot over 5 times, right in front of my nose!”
Dean has been a client of Big Sky Senior Services for over 4 years and claims that without the help he receives, life would be much more difficult. He enjoys having someone help him with laundry, dishes, and other household chores that occasionally exhaust him. BSSS affords him the opportunity to remain safely in his own home, and he looks forward to the visits he receives from his six children, 3 boys and 3 girls. He still takes time to hunt, check on his cattle in Miles City, and just about anything else his body will allow him to do.
Dean is a proud member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, and Military Order of Purple Hearts.