Tom Marshall of Three Rivers will attend a celebration held in his honor tonight (Friday, March 29) to commend him for his military service. The event is part of Hero Appreciation Months, which is sponsored by community volunteers Leah Launey and Peter Sodhy.
The public is welcome to attend the event. And there is enough food served to make a dinner out of it.
“It all started September 30, 1943, in Whittier Rural that today is the town of Artesia in Southern California,” Tom said.
He was born the middle child of John and Irene Marshall. These days, his brother John lives in SoCal; sister Linda Drouet lives in Three Rivers.
The family moved to Lakewood, Calif., when Tom was in middle school. He attended Lakewood High School and Long Beach City College. He was a Boy Scout and ultimately earned the BSA’s highest achievement: Eagle Scout. He was also a member of the Naval Reserve.
“Music and water sports were my life at the time,” Tom reminisced. “I played in the school bands and orchestras and also enjoyed water polo and competition swimming.”
Tom’s summer before his senior year at Lakewood High was life-changing. He left the city for the Rocky Mountains, working at the Jenny Lake Store in Grand Teton National Park, Wyo.
“I remember almost every minute of that summer, including the bear that wanted to be in my cot with me,” said Tom. “That is probably why I enjoy wildlife photography today.”
By the time Tom was 21, he was part of a fleet with the U.S. Navy. He reported to duty at Long Beach’s Terminal Island and was assigned to the USS Taluga AO-62, a fleet oiler that refueled ships at sea.
“Great,” he thought. “This is not a carrier or destroyer, but a floating gas station.” This was not the assignment Tom had anticipated when enlisting.
“It was a floating gas station,” he said. “They put me in the deck force and within 20 minutes I had a paintbrush in my hand and was painting a wall in the sick bay.
Tom’s Reserve training was as a yeoman (administrator). He informed the seaman he was working with that he was going to the ship’s office to tell them he had been assigned to the wrong place. In so many words, the sailor told Tom that such a stunt wouldn’t end well.
It was fate that Tom didn’t listen to his colleague’s advice.
“As I entered the hatch [door] to the ship’s office the yeoman in the office was receiving his orders to report to another ship so I said, ‘Here I am, ready to take his place!’”
Tom continued. “The chief in charge asked if I was trained and I said, yes, as a yeoman striker. He transferred me to the X Division, and I felt right at home.”
That was August 1964; the following January the ship was on its way to Vietnam where Tom was stationed for nearly a year.
* * *
To hear the rest of Tom’s story, attend the presentation tonight (Friday, March 29).
Tom concluded: “Like my grandfather, who was in the Indiana Cavalry and my father who served aboard the battleship USS Maryland in the 1930s, I am proud to have served in the U.S. Navy and to be a veteran of the United States.”