In Memory: Donald G. Stratton
Biographies are generally not my favorite genre to read. In fact, I could probably count on one hand the biographies I have read; I just don’t go to that aisle of the library. But there was something about the stories I heard when Donald Stratton died that made me want to learn more about him. Just to remind you, Donald G. Stratton was the USS Arizona Survivor who died on February 15, 2020 at the age of 97. A motor cade in his honor came through Stockton the evening of February 27, carrying him to his final resting place at Red Cloud, Nebraska, where he grew up.
In reading about him at the time of his passing, I was struck by how much he remembered and still carried with him from his horrific survival of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. One would think that an experience so atrocious, with extensive injuries so excruciatingly painful, would block out memories of that period of his life, especially the day of the attack. But instead, he has a very clear memory, starting with his childhood, to enlisting in the U.S. Navy, what was going on prior to the attack and everything that followed.
Shortly after Mr. Stratton’s death, I went to Amazon. com and noticed there were only five remaining copies of his book, “All The Gallant Men,” so I ordered one. Once I began reading it, for someone who steers clear of biographies, I couldn’t put the book down. I am so glad I broke from my stubborn ways and read Mr. Stratton’s life story. I am so glad he completed the book, written so well by Ken Gire. If anyone would like to borrow the book from me, you are welcome to it, as long as you return it—I don’t want to lose it.
Since finishing the book, I looked up additional information on Mr. Stratton because his story is just so incredible. A post on his Facebook page on April 16, 2020, shows a certificate the family received from President Trump after Mr. Stratton’s passing. The family noted that they will always have such fond memories of meeting the President in the Oval Office with “both Donalds laughing.” They are certain that the President will always remember their father/grandfather’s famous advice: “Don’t do anything you can’t do standing up in a hammock.”
Just a little over a month ago—April 15—was his wife, Velma Stratton’s 94th birthday, and a week later, on April 23, the Sratton family celebrated what would have been Don and Velma’s 70th wedding anniversary. Through those 70 years, they lost three of their four children — a daughter who lived for three days, another daughter who lived for five days, a son who died at the age of 56 of complications from hepatitis C and Agent Orange exposure from his service in Vietnam; and actually the fourth also died, of a heart attack, but paramedics brought him back. In the book, Mr. Stratton said this son, Randy, their second child, lives near them in Colorado Springs.
Exactly one week after the family was together to celebrate with Velma, honoring their 70th anniversary, Velma passed away on April 30. She was memorialized with a service at the Red Cloud Cemetery on Friday, May 15th, as she was laid to rest next to her sweetheart of 70 years. Regarding her passing, her family posted, “... she went to be with Donald. Velma passed away of a broken heart, but we know she is with the love of her life and their three children.”
This Memorial Weekend, as we commemorate those who sacrificed so much in service to our country, I will be thinking of Donald Stratton and his family, who have lost their parents/grandparents recently. They have much to be grateful for, as do we all.