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    Tuesday, August 22, 2017-7:36:28P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

‘Freedom is not free’ (Part I)

WHAT price freedom?

“It’s not free,” so said two visiting World War II veterans Jesse Loma, 91, and Claude Bryan “CB” Martin Jr., 87.

WWII veteran Claude Bryan Martin Jr., center, is seen at American Memorial Park yesterday with his daughter Jan Martin Davis, left, and son-in-law U.S. Navy veteran James Rabon. Photo by Alexie Villegas ZotomayorLoma, who was with his daughter Deb Loma Hoffman, and Martin, who was with his daughters Jody Martin Rabon and Jan Martin Davis, were part of the 14-member group brought over to the islands by Military Historcal Tours.

Loma, who was a U.S. Navy second class electrician during the war, was visiting Saipan for the first time.

He told Variety he had long wanted to visit Saipan.

His daughter, Deb Loma Hoffman, who accompanied him on this trip, said her father was browsing a program of veterans who returned from a tour of Iwo Jima and he said he wanted to see Saipan.

Hoffman said they began researching about it and “we found this tour.”

Loma, who’s originally from Chicago, said he had just turned 21 when he enlisted in April 1942.

“I reported to Great Lakes in April 1942. I was living in Chicago, Illinois,” he said.

Asked why he enlisted, he said he did it for the excitement that comes along with joining the service.

“Deadly excitement you might call it,” he said.

He said he was thinking like any ordinary guy at the time.

“To serve the country — that was the ultimate thought,” he said.

After spending one month in training in Great Lakes, he said he was shipped to Norfolk, VA. to train.

From there, “I was assigned to a ship — theUSS Moffet,” he said.

Variety learned that the USS Moffett was a Porter-class ship assigned to the U.S. Navy that was on patrol and convoy duties in the South Atlantic and Carribean in the first two years of WWII.

He said he was aboard the USS Moffet for about nine months, “in which time we assisted Army aircraft that had surfaced German submarine.”

He remembered how they were summoned to assist.

“We damaged and sunk the ship and picked up some of the crew. Some of them were injured, some were dead. We also picked up the captain,” he said.

After serving nine months on the USS Moffet, Loma said he was transferred to the USS McNair.

Variety learned that USS McNair participated in most battles to liberate the islands in the West Pacific.

Loma confirms, “All these islands that were invaded between here and the Philippines we took part in. We either escorted the aircraft carriers that did the bombardment or did convoy duty that would bring supplies to troops.”

However, for Loma, coming out to the Pacific was his first war encounter.

During the time the destroyer went around the Pacific islands, he said he had not stepped on land for about a year “just by going around.”

“We saw the islands, but that was it. We never stepped ashore,” said adding that they would shell the islands from various points.

He told Variety that their destroyer with 300 men along with other ships assisted the Marines who were on island at the time. “They would call whenever they encountered resistance,” he recalled.

But during the time that they were seeing action in the area, Loma said, “When you’re in action, you’re heart is always in your throat. You are scared.”

Looking back to those war years, Loma was asked how he felt serving the nation.

“What can I say? I am glad I lived through it. It was not easy,” he said.

Despite surviving the war, and after having served, Loma said, “I’m no hero of any kind.”

His daughter confirmed that her father was uncomfortable each time someone approached him and thanked him for his service.

For Loma, the real heroes were those who never came back.

“All the heroes they didn’t make it home — they stayed behind. That’s what hurts me,”he said.

Coming to and stepping on Saipan for the very first time after more than six decades, he said he remembered it looked like a patched quilt in 1944.

In contrast to the time that he was “behind the guns,” visiting Saipan now was a “pleasure.”

His daughter Deb told Variety, “I’ve learned about history more than I ever learned history in classroom. History just came alive.”

Hoffman, who lives an hour-ride away from her father’s residence in south Wisconsin, said, “He lives independently.”

“I have always been honored to be my father’s daughter and to know that he served his country,” she said.

For the young men and women now serving the nation, Loma said, “God bless them!”

To be continued

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