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Parade a birthday surprise for WWII veteran

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World War II veteran Arthur Young, center, salutes the U.S. flag as a member of Roswell’s Patriot Guard Riders drives by his house Tuesday afternoon for Young’s 92nd birthday. (Juno Ogle Photo)

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It was small as parades go — just a few motorcycles, a pickup and a classic car all sporting American flags — but it was nonetheless a pleasant surprise for Arthur Young’s 92nd birthday Tuesday.

Young said he hadn’t expected much for his birthday, just a cake and presents with a few family members, but he was pleased with the parade. Seated on his front lawn, he rose to his feet and saluted the flag as the vehicles passed by.

Young’s daughter, Cindy Anderson, had arranged for the parade of Roswell’s Patriot Guard Riders to honor her father, a World War II veteran.

“He’s had one heck of a life. I have to give him credit. I’m very proud of what he’s done with his life,” Anderson said.

These days, his memory isn’t as sharp, but he recalled his days of service in the U.S. Navy toward the end of the war. His daughter helped fill in some of the details.

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Young grew up in New York — his voice still carries an accent — and enlisted when he was just 17. His mother had to sign permission papers to allow him to enlist, he said.

He was a fireman first class aboard the USS Paricutin, which delivered ammunition throughout the Pacific.

“A fireman first class is the operator of the boilers,” Young said. “Fireman really had nothing to do with firefighting. If there was a fire, we all had to jump in and try to put it out because we were on a ship full of explosives. It was a floating bomb.”

Working in the ship’s engine room, he didn’t get to see much of the Pacific islands, he said.

“I could see Hawaii from maybe 10 miles away,” he said.

He did get a chance to go ashore at Guam, however.

“Guam I remember, because I got off the boat there and got on shore. If I’m not mistaken, there was two villages in Guam,” he said.

Following the war, Anderson was sent to Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois. He was discharged in 1948, and moved to nearby Milwaukee, where he became a police officer.

“He walked the beat for many, many years,” Anderson said. Her father also worked two jobs for many years to provide for the family, she said.

While on the beat as a cop, Young said, he got to know some of Milwaukee’s more notorious figures including Mafia boss Frank Balistrieri.

“I knew of a couple of them like Frank Balistrieri and some of those guys. They lived on my beat. Perfect gentleman,” Young said of Balistrieri. “You could talk to the guy. I never had no problem with him.”

After leaving the police force, Young worked for a couple of years in the sheriff’s department then moved on to working for himself selling motor supplies.

Anderson said her uncle convinced Young and her mother, Marion, to move to Roswell for the good golfing weather. That was in 1979. Anderson followed about a year later.

Her mother died about 15 years ago, and Anderson moved in with her father to be his caretaker. He still gets out some, although he said he tries to limit his time out since the coronavirus pandemic started.

“He goes to the store, and I try to get him to walk as much as I can, but his legs don’t let him go too far anymore,” Anderson said.

But Tuesday, he only had to go to his front lawn with Anderson and son Todd Heron and neighbor Roger Blough to watch the parade.

“I’ve had some good times. There’s been a couple of rough roads, too, but we got through it. That’s life,” Young said with a shrug.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.