OCEANO, Calif. -- A Central Coast World War II survivor is sharing his story. The Marine fought in the 1945 battle of Iwo Jima in Japan.
Jessee Arney currently lives in Oceano. He's 96 but he wants you to know he's “a young 96!”
Arney is one of the last survivors of the battle of Iwo Jima. That's something he wants you to know, too.
“I wanted them all to know that I'm still here.”
It's because last week, he says a friend thought a story about an Iwo Jima survivor dying could be referring to the Oceano vet.
“So he comes and told me, I wanna shake your hand –you're supposed to be dead!”
But he's not –he survived World War II, and 2019.
“Somebody asked me, said, did you go in the first wave or the second wave? I said, I don't know. I got there in time to get blowed up.”
The Oklahoma native says he's had a few close calls.
“They caught a Japanese, or he surrendered years later, and he had a record of all the places that we had been and he was there watching us. He could've probably killed some of us.”
For years, Arney avoided talking about the war, even with his wife.
“Lotta times, lotta things you don't wanna talk about.”
But he says time and his faith have helped him cope with the things he saw, and the friends he lost.
“They're all gone now, I guess.”
Today, he's just happy he lived to tell the story.
“You know when you're young, you look at things a lot different than when you're old, so it was bad but lived through it. So it's what counts, I guess.”
Arney says he served in the Marines for four years before becoming a teacher in Kern County for about 30 years. He then moved to the Central Coast with his wife to retire.