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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

“The toughest guy I’d ever met”: Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Garland’s memorial shares stories of a life fully lived

The flag is unfolded during the memorial service for Ray Garland  at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Coeur d'Alene on Friday, April 26, 2019.  Garland was the last remaining veteran in the Lilac City Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. He was 96. Garland was a decorated Marine, earning two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star during World War II and the Korean War. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Pastor Bill Hemenway said that when one looks over the first few chapters in Ray Garland’s life, “it’s more than most people get to live” in a lifetime.

But Garland wasn’t just a Marine with an extraordinary story as the last veteran in the Spokane area to have survived Pearl Harbor. He was a family man and a dedicated neighbor. On April 17, he died in his sleep at age 96.

His memorial, held Friday at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Coeur d’Alene, drew friends, family and military peers who all had their own stories to tell.

Garland was best known for his service on the USS Tennessee during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Garland witnessed the USS Arizona sink and would tell stories of seeing the goggles of the Japanese pilots as they flew by.

After suffering burns while trying to douse fires in the attack, Garland recovered and served the remainder of World War II on the Tennessee. After the war, he moved to Spokane.

Norm Sanborn recalled serving in the Marine Corps Reserve with Garland in Spokane in 1948, where they participated in training exercises together. He said Garland was “a man’s man and a Marine’s Marine.”

Sanborn said Garland became an explosive ordinance disposal worker in the Marines, a job which he can’t imagine anyone wanting.

“He must have been good at it,” Sanborn said, “because he lived through it.”

Garland was also deployed to Korea during the Korean War, where Garland and other Marines had to camp in frigid conditions that froze their food, medicine and gun oil, preventing their weapons from firing.

William C. Wallace, who was deployed to Seoul, Korea, with Garland, was also in attendance for the memorial Friday. Wallace shared a story of serving on Garland’s left flank while they battled their way from the U.S. base in Seoul to the Chosin Reservoir while under attack from roughly 120,000 Chinese troops.

Garland was wounded during the Marines’ retreat. After recovering, he came back to Spokane and then moved to Coeur d’Alene, where he lived the remainder of his life.

Dan Hendrikson, Garland’s stepson, said “he was the toughest guy I’d ever met.”

Garland’s military decorations included a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

But, said Hemenway, “we would be vastly mistaken if we thought that (the Marines) was his whole life,”

A slideshow of his family life showed Garland and his wife, Bev, playing on the beach with grandchildren. Photos also shared glimpses of his RV, of him fishing and hunting, and of his favorite pastime, model airplanes.

Hal Clark, Garland’s 30-year neighbor in Coeur d’Alene, said he never talked about his experiences in the military, but that he was very present. He was more concerned with news, sports and the neighbors, Clark said.

“Everything you see of his dedication to his country was of equal dedication to his neighborhood,” said Clark. “If he saw something a neighbor needed, he’d jump on it.”