World War II veteran Roy Buckner shares a smile as he reflects on his return home from overseas. (Source: KSLA News 12)
The four Buckner brothers served in the U.S. Marine Corps and fought in World War II. (Source: Buckner family)
Twins Roy (left) and Ray (right) Buckner enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1941. (Source: Buckner family)
Roy Buckner is presented his Quilt of Valor on June 23 at Barksdale Air Force Base. (Source: KSLA News 12
A closer look at the Quilt of Valor presented to Roy Buckner (Source: KSLA News 12)
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) -
They were four men who fought and served in World War II, of whom only three returned home.
They were the Texas Band of Brothers.
Now only one remains.
And Marine Corps platoon Sgt. Roy Buckner, a Bronze Star recipient, has managed to condense a lifetime of memories into one book.
The 96-year-old says the photographs and keepsakes are there to paint a picture for others, not for him.
For nearly 80 years, his memories have remained close to his heart and vivid in his mind.
"One day, my twin brother called me. And he says 'Me and my buddy down here, we’re going to join the Marine Corps.' And I said ,'Well, you sure that’s what you want to do?' He said, 'Yeah. We’re going to join the Marine Corps, and we’re going to Dallas to sign up'," Buckner recalled.
"I said, 'What time are you going to go?' He said, 'Tomorrow, we leave tomorrow.' I said, 'Well, count me in; I’ll be there'."
A snap decision he never second guessed.
War was imminent.
"It was already started in Europe. And the federal government said you could go in the service and serve a year and get your obligation behind you and you could come out."
That's exactly what they planned to do.
But a few months after they joined" "Pearl Harbor happened. Everything changed," Buckner said.
A few days after the attack, the twins' two other brothers also enlisted in the Marine Corps.
"They wanted to follow us," Buckner laughed.
The four East Texas brothers became the poster boys for recruiting.
"My twin brother was the sergeant of the first guard station at Pendleton."
Roy and Ray Buckner were part of the first Marines to open and train at Camp Pendleton in California. From there, they traveled to New Zealand to train with allied forces.
"They trained us at jungle warfare."
The twins' first taste of war came as part of the second wave on the island of Guadalcanal. From there, they went to Bogainville.
"It rained every day that we were on the island," Buckner recalled. "We landed in dungarees; we never changed clothes for 58 days.
"You can imagine the trouble, trouble we had; and we lost a lot of men from fungus infection."
Their ailments left only to be treated by salt water and hot sand, as the war marched north.
The twins hit the beaches of Guam on July 28th, 1944 - their 23rd birthday.
"I saw my brother jump and fall to the ground. So I knew he was hit," Buckner said.
"But I looked back again, and he had rolled behind a big rock. And he was motioning for the guys to come on up the hill.
"So I knew he was hit, but I knew it wasn’t bad, you know, so we moved on and we secured the top of the ridge."
Four days later, his brother was back in the fight.
"He was back on the front lines and went right straight on until we secured Guam."
Ray Buckner, however, would not come home.
"He was shot through the side of the back; and it affected two vertebrae in his back. That was on Aug. 21, 1944," his twin explained.
"I kept him in a two-man tent down near the beach until the 27th; he died on the 27th."
Roy Buckner and his fellow Marines buried his twin there on the beach of Guam.
A few days later, he traveled to meet his other brothers and share the news of Ray Buckner's death.
"There’s a picture (in there) of the three of us at the end of the runway," Buckner said. "Just a short distance up the runway is where the Enola Gay took off with the atomic bomb to drop on Hiroshima."
He came home when the Japanese surrendered.
Buckner's two brothers stayed and took part in the occupation of Japan.
"The good Lord has got a time for everything, you know. We fail to recognize it sometimes. There’s a time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to harvest. It’s all set up for us."
Now Buckner's living room is decorated with memories of service, not all of them sad.
In fact, many bring a smile to his face; and his eyes still gleam with pride.
"There are people that look at you and consider you a hero, a real-life hero," Buckner said.
"Oh, no, I’m not no hero. I just did like everybody else. We had a job to do. And there’s plenty people out there that’s done far more than I ever dreamed of doing. I'm grateful for everything."
On Saturday, KSLA News 12's Marie Waxel was there at Barksdale Air Force Base when a representative of The Giving Quilt presented Buckner with a handmade quilt as part of the national Quilts of Valor program.
Made by hand with love, the quilts are just a small thank you to veterans of all theaters of war for their service.
"Mr. Buckner was quite touched by it, that people outside of his family really cared about what he did and want to acknowledge it even though it was so far in the past," said Renee Hoeprich, of The Giving Quilt.
"But it's part of our history and he is part of our community, no matter how far in the past it was."
The Giving Quilt has made it a priority to work with the national Quilts of Valor program to help ensure all remaining World War II veterans in Louisiana receive a quilt in honor of their service.
The quilts are given to veterans of all ages and walks of life.