Since 2010, 95-year-old WWII Army Veteran Arden Pridgeon has helped recognize countless local veterans in the We Honor Veterans program
How does it feel to help honor veterans; especially those with a serious illness or receiving end of life care?
I’ve seen how happy it makes fellow veterans and I know that when they see my uniform, they know what it means. It’s important to me and I make sure to find a way to attend the presentations. I feel blessed that I can still get up and around to do these.
What makes your attendance so special at these presentations?
As a veteran, I think I’m able to connect with each individual and their family because we share the same respect for the uniform. They not only know what the symbols mean but on a very personal level know what it takes to earn those distinctions, because they’ve been there. I’m proud to honor each individual while wearing the Army uniform I wore when I discharged from the military in 1946.
Can you share about your time overseas?
War is hell. I served in the US Army, 96th division as an infantryman. I was involved in the Philippine Liberation and the Battle of Okinawa. We landed on Okinawa Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945 with 1,400 ships, battleships and airplanes. The battle was the longest and bloodiest in the Pacific, with approximately 160,000 casualties on both sides.
What did you receive your purple heart for?
It was the evening of April 14, 1945 and I was on Okinawa going back to get some supplies and get ready for the next night when the mortar shells started landing. I hit the ground, and a piece of shrapnel hit me in the neck and cut the chain on my dog tag. And my sergeant said, “You got hit by a sniper bullet.”
I was evacuated because of my neck injury. Fortunately for me there was a first aid camp there as well as a doctor. I was taken to a naval hospital in Guam. Since it was a non-emergency, I stayed there a couple of weeks. When my bandage came off, I was asked what I wanted to do. I said, “I want to go right back where I left, Company G, 381st Infantry, 96th Division."
I was sent to an army replacement center in Saipan where I went through rifle and operation courses again and then put on a ship back to Okinawa. By the time I got to my platoon, none of the original members of Company G were left. I was a private first-class but treated like an old timer after my return. My role was operating the phone that controlled the flame-thrower of the tank.
What happened after things were under control on Okinawa?
We began training for an invasion of Japan but that would never happen. As we were training they dropped the atomic bomb which lead to the end of the war with Japan. After we were sent back to the states; we crossed the International Dateline on December 25, 1945. I was discharged on January 11, 1946 at Camp McCoy, WI. That same month I was enrolled back in college at Michigan State University (MSU) to get an engineering degree. I moved to Benton Harbor in 1949 to work for Benton Harbor Malleable Industries. I received my master’s degree from MSU Exension in Benton Harbor. I spent the next 25 years teaching the foundry metallurgy program first at Benton Harbor and then at Western Michigan University until I retired at the end of 1989.
Thank you, Arden Pridgeon, for your service!
Arden was awarded:
(Top row) BRONZE STAR with two oak leaf clusters, PURPLE HEART with two oak leaf clusters, GOOD CONDUCTS MEDAL, AMERICAN CAMPAIGN MEDAL, ASIATIC-PACIFIC CAMPAIGN MEDAL, PHILIPPINE LIBERATION RIBBON with two bronze service stars
(Bottom row) HONORABLE SERVICE LAPEL BUTTON WWII, COMBANT INFANTRYMAN BADGE 1ST AWARD