Next time you see Leroy Tyrrell, give him a salute.
The 86-year-old local man is the new commander of VFW Post 3361 in Ventnor.
Tyrrell takes command at a time when membership of many veterans organizations is waning, due in part to the age of many of the old warriors. Tyrrell said one of his main missions as post commander is to recruit younger members to help fill the ranks.
"It's thinning out," Tyrrell said.
There's also another plan in the works: Extend more of a helping hand to the community.
"People need more help these days," Tyrrell said.
A former Philadelphia and Atlantic City resident, Tyrrell has lived here for the past 20 years. He now lives on Montgomery Avenue with Regina, his wife of more than 60 years.
Tyrrell has also been a member of the post for two decades, serving in different capacities over the years.
"Each year, you get a little more responsibility," he said.
It takes a little nudging to get the former member of the U.S Marine Corps who went ashore at Guadalcanal in 1942 to talk about his experiences in World War II.
"Nothing that others didn't experience," Tyrrell said of what he encountered at Guadalcanal. "There was shelling. Things like that."
Tyrrell was 17 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, an act that prompted him to enlist in the Marine Corps.
"We were all kind of reacting to the Pearl Harbor incident," he said. "The country was quite upset. We were outraged."
Tyrrell eventually found himself in the Pacific theater, with his destination being Guadalcanal, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war. He went ashore Nov. 4, 1942.
Ask Tyrrell what it was like on Guadalcanal, and he defers giving his private thoughts, opting to read from the writings of a fellow Marine.
"For us, combat was a series of changing events, characterized by confusion, physical stress and fierce hatred of the enemy, and an overwhelming grief for the loss of friends," Tyrrell reads. "We endured vile personal filth in a repulsive environment saturated by the stench of death and decay. We had our hands full fighting and trying to survive moment to moment."
Tyrrell said, "That kind of sums it up."
Still, Tyrrell made it through alive.
He survived to return to the United States and his native Philadelphia, where he worked for a baking company. He also was a part-time bartender over the years.
His family also flourished: He has three children, 24 grandchildren, and 28 great grandchildren.
That world of experience he has had over the years has prepared him for his new mission.
"I think I'm up to it," Tyrrell said.
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