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Robert Edward Young

 

Photo Credit: Carolyn (Young) Rebar  

Left to right: Paul Young, Carolyn Young, S 2/c Robert Edward Young

 

Robert Edward Young was my uncle.  He and his two brothers grew up as orphans in the days before welfare.  He graduated from high school at the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphans Home in Xenia, Ohio, and found stability in the Navy when he was young and most needed it.  He and my father were very close and Bob spent many visits with us from the time I was born.  On Veterans Day, November 11, 2002, I would like to remember him by sending in the story he told me about what happened to him when the U.S.S. Rich was sunk.   He always said the ship was in the English Channel, but he never told me the exact location.  One day I decided to find out more on the Internet and to my surprise, I found the extensive website for the ship.

I used to make him tell me the story again and again, but he never divulged the more gruesome details to me until I was older.  He told me that he was a cook and was down in the galley when the ship was first hit.  He said he really never knew what hit him.  One minute he was on board, and the next thing he knew he was in the water, fighting to stay afloat.  He said there were fires on the water and that the smell of burning oil was everywhere, which made him very sick.  He also said that he couldn’t help swallowing water which was filled with fuel and that also sickened him. He said he knew he was wounded and thought that he was burnt around his arms and chest, which I believe he was. He told me that he could hear the screams and moans of the injured and dying from all around him.  The water was filled with wreckage and debris floating in the water and he managed to grasp what he described to me as “a piece of wood”.  He held on to that drifting object and tried to keep from passing out.  He said the last thing he remembered was the horrible sight of “pieces of bodies, arms and legs, floating all around.”  I had to press him to tell me the details because he didn’t think I should know everything.  The story has stayed with me always. 

He was picked up from the water and taken to a hospital in England.  I do not know the ship which carried him there.  He said he didn’t wake up for some days and had burns on his arms, and some other injuries.   The first thing he saw when he opened his eyes was a lovely woman bending over him and he truly believed that he had died and that he was in heaven.  I will always remember him saying, “It was an English nurse, and she looked just like an angel to me.”  My family was so happy that he was alive and best of all, that he would be coming home, at least for a while.  I recall that he was next stationed at the Navy Pier in Chicago, and we lived in Maywood, a close suburb of Chicago.  He came often to see us, and we were very close to him.  My brother and I were like his own children.  He married years later and had a boy and a girl.  He was a Delaware state trooper and a college security guard.  He died from complications of diabetes at age 69, December 1991, in Newark, Delaware. 

His passion was volunteering for the Police Department and the Fire Department.  He was always there to help in every criminal or fire alarm crisis, day or night, while he lived in Newark, DE.  There was a cortege many miles long at his funeral composed of fire engines, police cars and ambulances.  Every intersection was closed while the cortege passed.  Police stood at attention and saluted as we passed and he had a full motorcycle escort.  We cannot imagine the good he must have done in his life to have warranted this kind of funeral procession as an ordinary citizen in a community.  After the sinking of his ship, he was just that kind of man, a helper, a rescuer, and a quiet, calm presence in the terror of a crisis, for his own family and for strangers he did not even know.  My brother and I were at his bedside two days before he died, each holding one of his hands, and wept with him.  I hope this memorial in some way will honor those who were with him on the U.S.S. Rich.  From your loving niece, Uncle Bob, and thanks for all the precious years you gave to me and my family. 

Carolyn Young Rebar
Napoleon, Ohio
November 25, 2002

        

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