Four generations, born from 1927 to 2004: father, son, grandson and great grandsons stood tall in front of the flags at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans; a picture taken to memorialize this long-time-in-coming occasion.
The oldest one, WW2 veteran Hulon Cameron of Sumrall in Lamar County, Gunner, Third Class in the US Navy, had a look of pride in his eyes for his service to his country. He had come a long way over the decades since he served in the troop transport ship of the USS Kent Island (AG-78). His story started 17 years before he enlisted.
On January 20th Hulon was born to farmers and later attended Oak Grove High School; when the war broke out after the Pearl Harbor attack, Hulon was not yet 18, the age when eligible males were drafted.
Around 90 percent of all draftees went into the army. When he turned 17, Hulon and his father went to the recruiter at the Hattiesburg Post Office, where his dad signed for him to be in the navy. A patriotic moment for him, Hulon joined the sea service because he “liked the navy uniforms better than the army’s” and he “did not want the ground force” of the land infantry.
He was a Seamen 1st Class, and took his training at the Navy’s sole boot camp in the country, Naval Station Great Lakes, in Lake County, Illinois north of Chicago.
Then he was stationed at Naval Base San Diego, the largest US naval base of the west coast. Shortly afterwards he was transferred to Pearl Harbor, where he came within “a stone’s throw” of the battleship USS Arizona.
There was no memorial built at this time and the base was still being rebuilt, so Hulon saw more of the raw aftermath of the sneak attack.
It was a poignant moment for him and his voice still cracks when he speaks of the over 1,100 sailors still entombed there. To this day, any of the 337 survivors of the attack on the ship have the choice to be interred there after they pass and join their fellow comrades; dozens of interment ceremonies have taken place over the years.
Under orders to transport troops to Okinawa, Hulon’s ship waited a few days for a typhoon to blow over; with a storm system hitting the Japanese island, the Japs were hit up for a double whammy from nature and man.
On the journey over enemy mines were dealt with by minesweepers and other defensive measures. If they were floating on the surface radar could pick them up, but if they were submerged several feet down, they were virtually undetectable except by visual sight. After “mine fishing” they would be transported to a relatively safe place and detonated.
When he arrived for the battle of Okinawa in 1944 Hulon assisted in unloading the marines but he stayed on the ship to guard it. At this point in the war, the only attacks the Japanese could effectively mount against American ships were the plane Kamikaze suicide assaults.
Hulon was fortunate and blessed to have never been wounded in the war, despite having been in action as a naval gunner.
After the formal surrender, the USS Kent started transporting the soldiers back home for demobilization. Hulon found himself in New Orleans in February, 1946 where they were celebrating Mardi Gras for the first time in four years. He took the parade all in as he prepared to reenter civilian life.
Discharged in 1946, he made a go of it with family life after he married Mary, the love of his life and they have been together for over 65 years.
He instilled hard won values in his son, which in turned passed those same values to his son, who is an ordained minister.
Hulon Cameron become a Life Member of the Lacy Kelly Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3036 in 1997 and has been an active member in the Mississippi Honor Guard, serving with a contingent that conducts burial services and presents American flags to the families of deceased veterans; Hulon has personally served in over 500 funerals.
He has been fairly active in his later years, marching with other military veterans in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and in Hattiesburg’s Night Out Against Crime, has personally been commended by Mayor Johnny Dupree, and has been recognized by Congressmen Steven Palazzo.
So Hulon, at 90, has made an impact and is a great example of the legacy of the past generations.
As a faithful Christian he gives God the glory, the Flag his honor and this great American Republic his patriotism.