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How I served my country

PAULETTE BALLARD
Guest Columnist

As told by Ray Hoffman

Ray Hoffman is an 87 year-old gentleman from Lincolnton. He enjoys eating breakfast at Hardees and spending time with his numerous friends there. The morning I interviewed him we were interrupted frequently. Almost everyone who came in knew him and either came to the table to speak to him, or yelled a hello from across the room. It was obvious that he is a very friendly and well-liked gentleman.
Hoffman revealed something he will never forget that happened when he was a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy aboard the U.S. Haven.
“During the three years I was in the service I was between the ages of 17 to 19. I was stationed in Okisaki when we received orders to go to Nagasaki. The Battle of Okinawa lasted 83 days. We were there when the bomb was dropped. Our men were ready to invade Japan, but we held off for a few days after the bombing. Our responsibility in Nagasaki was to liberate the prisoners of war on the island.
We were anchored in the harbor, where we constructed shower baths on the shore by the wharf. The prisoners were brought to us and our course of action was to have them remove their clothing, give them a hot shower and clean the lice from their hair. Following this they were sent to another area and given new clothes. Upon completion of this task they were sent to the hospital ship if they needed medical attention, or to the aircraft carrier if medical care was not deemed necessary.
Many of the prisoners were Dutch from New Guinea. I had to learn to speak Dutch as a matter of necessity to communicate with them. It was my duty to process them and send them to the next area. Once my tasks were accomplished I had to tell them to go down the hall and turn left around the corner. Following the war I was discharged at Treasure Island in California. We traveled for three weeks across the country on a troop transport hooked to a train. One of our stops was at the train station in Butte, Mont. Local people were at the train station selling various items. This was where I saw milk in a carton for the first time. We had never seen these cartons, therefore we didn’t know how to open them.”
I asked Hoffman where he served during his years in the service. He was stationed in Baybridge Md., Brooklyn N.Y., Charleston, S.C. and Jacksonville, Fla. While in Jacksonville he was playing tennis and wearing shorts when he received orders to relocate to Newport, R.I. It was so cold there the salt water was frozen. He recalled this was quite a difference in temperature from one day to the next.
Upon returning home he started college on the G.I. Bill. He went to work for Barger Construction in Cherryville, rebuilding the old Methodist church which had burned down.
Hoffman has a farm in the country on Walker Branch Road. He raises grapes, scuppernongs and muscadines and sells them in September and October. If there are any grapes left over, he uses them to make wine. He doesn’t sell the wine; he gives it away. He said he also furnishes six churches with wine for their communion services.

Paulette Ballard collects interesting, funny and unusual stories from people in and around Lincolnton. If you have a story you would like to submit for her column, e-mail it towww.pballardnc1029@yahoo.com. In the subject line type “For your column.” Include your name and phone number for her to contact you.

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