In 1942 Robert Miller McTureous Jr. quit.
He quit collage were he was active in sports, and he was active in church and he was an avid airplane modeler to go back to his hometown Altoona, FL with the intention of enlisting.
When McTureous tried to enlist he received some incredibly dispiriting news. He was classified as 4F — unfit for duty — because he had a hernia. So his brother Basil got on a job with the Florida Highway Department, where he started building roads and he started saving his money.
When he had enough money saved he got an operation to fix his hernia. But when he had the operation, he received more dispiriting news. He had a hernia on the other side. His doctor said, “Son, since you’re doing this to join the Service the next operation is on me.” After McTureous healed up he went back and had the second side repaired. He tried again to reenlist and again he was turned down because he had had the hernias, and the operation was interpreted as insufficient to repair that problem.
So he waited and a third time he applied, six months later. Finally in 1944, he was accepted. When McTureous went in and was waiting at the enlisting station he felt an itch at the top of his head at the same time the Marine recruiter came into the room. When he raised his hand to scratch that itch, he inadvertently volunteered for the Marine Corps. Perhaps not every itch should be scratched.
Robert Miller McTureous earned the Medal of Honor.
So McTureous shipped out, and went to Okinawa, and in June of 1945 he was assigned to the 29thMarine regiment, Sixty Marine infantry division. At this place Oroku Ridge, Okinawa his division had just taken a hill, and he came through unscathed. But the Japanese had set up on the next hill, and in Okinawa, there was always a next hill and a next hill and a next hill. The Japanese built caves, and with machine guns and 40 mm cannons that they had taken from downed aircrafts, they were shooting at the Marines who were wounded and in exposed positions, and they were shooting at the stretcher-bearers who were in McTureous’ unit who were trying to recover the wounded Marines.
Caves on the Oruku Peninsula of Okinawa.
McTureous , who was in a safe spot, filled his shirt with grenades and he crossed 200 yards of dangerous territory, to attack these caves to defeat the Japanese. He had to get up close and throw the grenades into the caves. When he ran out of grenades he went back to his unit but he didn’t stay there. He reloaded with grenades, and he went at it again. He attacked savagely, and he drew the fire of the Japanese defenders.
McTureous blew up several caves, and he blew up several machine guns, saving the lives of US Marines. Stretcher-bearers could move forward. While he was out there beyond the front lines, he was seriously wounded in the gut – a very painful terrible place to get hit.
He did not cry out, because he knew if he did and his buddies knew that he was out there wounded, they would send a stretcher-bearer out across the open land. Not wanting any more lives to be risked, he crawled back, wounded and bleeding 200 yards to his unit.
Why did McTureous, who was in a safe spot, leave that safe place and expose himself. He was a Private. He wasn’t ordered to. It wasn’t as if he was the Lieutenant of this unit. They weren’t “his” guys.
Robert McTureous had a spark within him – a spark of greatness. He realized that there was something more, beyond himself, and he embraced that spark and he went out and did what he had to do.
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