Our military veterans sacrificed so much to serve for us; and Delaware Hospice staff and volunteers are grateful for the opportunity to serve our veterans now–such as WWII Veterans, Bob Dickerson, Sergeant in the Marine Corps, and Sam Smith, Warrant Officer in the Army and the Merchant Marines. Both gentlemen now reside in Sussex County and both have found a helping hand through Delaware Hospice’s Transitions Program, which offers non-medical support to individuals with serious illnesses who are not hospice appropriate.
Sam Smith was a Delaware Hospice patient for a while, but when his symptoms improved, he became appropriate for the non-medical type of care available through the Transitions Program. Sam also appreciates weekly visits from his Delaware Hospice volunteer, Alice, which allows his caregiver to get a much-needed break.
Sam was drafted after high school in 1943 and trained at Norfolk in Virginia. He enjoyed his military training, but decided to study every day for his commission to be an officer. He was then assigned to an army ship with a very unique mission at the time: to mine the coast for protection against submarines coming into the country. “We would travel up and down the coast selecting streams or inlets to the bay where a submarine could potentially enter the country. Our ship would go in and the captain would tell us when to drop the mines. Each mine weighed about 300 pounds.”
“We also used to pick up the ingredients for the mines. You would dock the ship, open it up, and shovel in the TNT. It was safe enough, because it needed a spark to explode.”
He said, “We only had one casualty that I can remember, but it was his fault. When you load the mines, you put a release cable on them, and this fellow got under the line unfortunately. But that was the only casualty that we had. Even so, there wasn’t a lot of competition for our jobs. Nobody wanted to fool around with the mines.”
There was one incident with an enemy submarine, however. “A German submarine attempted to come in off of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and they blew it up. The mines worked in one of two ways—if the ship hit it, it would explode; or someone on the shore monitoring vessels coming in could cause it to explode remotely when the ship was over the mine.”
Sam’s most frightening moments had nothing to do with handling live mines, though. He said, “One night there was a terrible storm and a ship out at sea was in trouble. So they asked us to go rescue these folks. Conditions were impossible and everyone was holding their breath—it was scary. But we managed to get a line on their vessel and bring them in to shore, eventually.”
After four years, Sam passed an examination for a license in the Merchant Marines. “In the Merchant Marines, I traveled quite a bit, especially in the South Pacific, doing the same line of work. We would evaluate the areas they wanted to mine, check out waterways, the depth of the water, whatever was needed so the mines would be effective.”
Sam still laughs to remember the day their ship was low on water supplies. “Our Captain knew of a place on the Philippines where we could get water. Now this ship was 180 feet long, but believe it or not, he took it right up onto the shore between some trees! There we filled our tanks and then sailed away again. I’ll never forget that!”
Fortunately, Sam and Bob were among those veterans who returned safely from the South Pacific, married, raised families, and retired in Sussex County. Delaware Hospice is honored to have the privilege of caring for them now.
Story Credit: Beverly Crowl, of Delaware Hospice