Today the Vinton County Historical and Genealogical Society honored the memory of a Navy veteran. But this wasn’t just any veteran – it was James Bryce Boring, Vinton County’s first World War II casualty.

The 21-year old was a fireman aboard the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor 70 years ago yesterday. While there is a marker for Mr. Boring in Bowen Cemetery near Vales Mills in Vinton County, his final resting place is aboard that ship thousands of miles from home.

The youngest of 12, James Bryce Boring simply went by Bryce. His mother died when he was only three months old and his father died when Bryce was six. Consequently, he and three of his sibling spent most of their childhood in the Vinton County Children’s Home (that building now houses Twin Maples Nursing Home on Rt. 93 N of McArthur).

Bryce graduated from McArthur High School and joined the Navy on January 2, 1941. He was stationed aboard the USS Oklahoma on that Sunday morning when Japan staged a surprise attack on the naval base.

The USS Oklahoma was moored in battleship row when it was hit by multiple Japanese torpedoes. Bryce was one of 429 crew members to go down with the ship.  He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

Today members of the Historical and Genealogical Society gathered along with the public and some of Bryce’s family to remember the young man who would be 91 years old had he been spared that day. It was chilly on that rural hilltop this morning and it is hard to imagine this boy from Radcliff, Ohio,  stationed in the warmth of Hawaii, giving his life for this country.

I am told that this is the second in a series of memorials the Historical and Genealogical Society is hosting and I was glad to be there. It is important to remember those who came before us and to remember the sacrifices they made so that we may someday live in peace.

The nice ladies and gentlemen who hosted the event invited us all back to Alice’s House, a wonderful museum of Vinton County history, to share in their holiday party. I’m just back from there and have to say it was a most enjoyable lunch. Alice’s House is run by volunteers from the Historical and Genealogical Society and is packed full of good things to help us remember where we came from.

While there, I was honored to speak with a lady who had her own World War II story. She was a young woman, at home with three small boys when her husband went missing in Germany. He was injured and held in a German POW camp but it was months before she knew what had happened to him. She wrote him everyday despite the fact her letters were always returned stamped “Missing in Action.” But she never gave up and one night answered a knock on the door to find him standing there.

She told me she will never forget how frightened and helpless she felt during that dark time in her life. And I do not doubt her word.

I tell you this story as a reminder to always ask questions when you get a chance. I didn’t know Vinton County had lost a sailor at Pearl Harbor nor did I know this lovely lady’s war story. But my day has been made richer because of my contact with these stories of humanity and I am truly glad I went.

Thanks to the volunteers at the Historical and Genealogical Society for helping us remember where we come from and for always being willing to share the stories.

Want to know more about the USS Oklahoma? Click here to visit a memorial webpage. Want to know more about Alice’s House and the Vinton County Historical and Genealogical Society? Call them at 596-0253. They would love to hear from you.

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