Floyd “Bud” Walker said being a Navy man was like shooting fish in a barrel.
“It’s as easy as I had it,” Walker said. “It was a whole lot better than plowing cotton or unloading the grocery trucks.”
Walker, a 93-year-old World War II veteran, served in the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet. His ship was small, only about 25 men aboard.
At home in Missouri, Walker had been in machinist school before joining the Navy. From 5 a.m.-10 p.m. he would attend classes, work in a machinist shop and end the day working at his dad’s grocery store. Then, a long ride in the bus would take him home and he’d have to start it all over the next morning.
When asked if he preferred going to war, he smiled and said it was easier.
“But I didn’t like it too much when they started shooting at me,” Walker said.
Though Walker can look back on his service with light-heartedness, thinking of home during wartime was just as special for him as it was for other soldiers. When he received mail, which was sporadic but much-appreciated, he said it felt like going home for Christmas.
So when third-graders from St. Rose of Lima Catholic School marched into the American Legion Post 560 in Garden Oaks to deliver Valentine’s Day cards, Walker said it felt just as nice.
Walker is a Legionnaire and was the guest of honor at the Operation Valentine’s event on Feb. 6 at the legion post, 3720 Alba Rd. The students made the visit extra special by singing the Navy fight song, “Anchors Aweigh,” to him after also singing “God Bless America.” Tearing up, Walker said it took him right back to his time of duty on the ship so many years ago.
Then the students had the opportunity to listen to the veterans’ stories before handing over the Valentine’s Day cards they had made.
The veterans that attended aside from Walker included legion Commander Tony Moreno, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam; 1st Vice Commander Larry Gutierrez, who served in the Navy in Desert Storm; 3rd Vice Commander Naro Mak, a Marine who served in the Persian Gulf; chaplain Pat Semien, who served in the Army in Vietnam; judge advocate Steve Watkins, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam; e-board member Chuck Custard, a Navy man who served during the Korean conflict; e-board member Peggy Mondy, a Marine who served during the Korean conflict; and legionnaire Ed Krueger, who was in the Navy and served in Vietnam.
St. Rose student Kylie Welker made three Valentine’s Day cards for the veterans. She said she loved making them because it made the veterans happy and reminded them how much their service is appreciated.
“They’ve done a lot for this country and we love to come here and see them and hear their stories because it’s very interesting and we would like to learn more about them,” Welker said.
Other schools in the area also participated in making cards for veterans. Hamilton Middle School, Pershing Middle School, New Heights Christian Academy, St. Ambrose Catholic School, St. Pius X High School and Wainwright Elementary School, in partnership with the Office Depot at 5330 W. 34th St., all sent cards to the post that were sent to various veterans. Humble ISD also dropped off cards at the post.
Plus, a homeschool group, individual members of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 560, and members of the Garden Oaks community dropped off their donations at the post.
This year, close to 3,000 Valentines were distributed to active duty military in Iraq, USO Bush, USO Hobby and the VA Med Center in Houston. The post also mailed a packet to a 104-year-old World War II veteran Bill White, a Marine who lives in Stockton, California. A friend of his requested Valentine’s Day cards on social media.
Having cards sent to them means a lot to veterans, Semien said.
“Just to see these kids when they give us these cards, and then you look at their little handwriting, it kind of blows your mind because the kids are doing this and it means so much,” Semien said.