Embrace A Veteran: Mission of 93-year-old WWII veteran was to get troops home

Embrace A Veteran: Mission of 93-year-old WWII veteran was to get troops home

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A 93-year-old World War II veteran is sharing his memories of getting troops back home after the war.

Every day, Richard Selby does at least 30 minutes of stretching and exercise.

"I lay on my back and pull my knees up. I work in some of the exercises that I learned at Duke University and some that I pick up at Tai Chi classes," Selby said.

He is just as devoted to his daily exercise as he was to serving his country, enlisting early at age 17 back in 1943.

"Well, at 18 you had to sign up for the draft and then you were immediately directed to one of the services. If you went in before 17 you get to pick your service. I was inclined towards the Navy. I read a lot of the propaganda about 'Join the Navy and see the world,'" Selby said.

Selby was stationed aboard the USS Hornet in the Pacific as the war ended.

"I was assigned to the Hornet, which was being used for what we called magic carpet duty. You took all the air component off the aircraft carrier, welded 3,500 bunks on a hangar deck, and used that to go out to the Pacific Islands and hauled back soldiers that were coming home," he said. "And we made three trips with the Hornet to the Mariettas Islands, Saipan, Tinian and of course Guam, with stops in Hawaii to … (bring) soldiers back to the United States."

While he never faced combat, Selby said he lost friends in the war and that he'll never forget the trips to get his comrades back home.

"They were very pleased to see us; they were happy to be on there. We were kind of stressful for the crew because with that many passengers the evaporators would not produce enough water for ordinary use, so only water fountains were open and water to the, of course, the Galley and we had only two meals a day on those trips for the soldiers, but that didn't bother them at all. They were happy they were going home," Selby said.

It was his honor to help.

"Well yes, but you know it was something that was kind of universal with all the people that I was around. Hey, this is the job that needs to be done, let's go do it, and we weren't looking for anything special out of it," Selby said.

He then went on to work for the U.S. Post Office and a few other stops before returning to work for the Navy, helping recruit engineers. Now, Selby spends time with his wife of nearly eight years, Sylvia, who is also active as a former water aerobics instructor.

Selby has been in Myrtle Beach since 1978, where he spends more time on the golf course, almost daily. He has proof of several hole-in-one stories, celebrations he said may mean more because of his time in the Navy.

"Yeah it was tough and it's a learning experience too and the people you get thrown together with from different walks of life, I think, is a developing experience for you too," Selby said.

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