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Voyageur's Best Features of 2001

Ervin Buck, circa WWII

Ervin Buck named "Marine of the Year"
McGrath man honored by Minnesota Marine Corps League
by Jacqualine Honstrom  |  May 22, 2001

As Memorial Day approaches and America remembers the men and women who served our country, these same veterans reminisce about their own history. There are many decorated veterans in this country we should all be very proud of as they made personal sacrifices for their country's freedom.

Private First Class Ervin Buck of McGrath was honored this spring, being named Marine of the Year by the Minnesota Marine Corps League. Buck enlisted into the Marine Corps in May of 1942, right after his high school graduation. Four other young men from McGrath joined him and all five made it home after WWII was over.

PFC Buck is a very decorated soldier. He has seven purple hearts, five bronze stars – all with the bronze "V", two Presidential citations and a "V" for valor. All medals were earned while serving in the South Pacific for three years during WWII.

Ervin has combat stories from the heat of battle, however, these stories are not found in many history books. As Buck said, "The battle stories are not easily told." He does remember each one as if it were yesterday. Buck goes on to say that the sacrifices he made were just part of his duties. The real heroes are the ones who gave their lives. They are the ones who made the real sacrifices. Buck was injured seven times in five battles. He put himself in the line of fire to protect and cover his unit. He remembers, "At first you thought you were going to die, then you realize damn well you were going to die. Then you pray if the good Lord is going to take you, make it quick." After recovering from each injury, Buck returned to the battle line hoping to teach the new, young soldiers coming into battle what mistakes not to make. "Every injury I received was a result of a mistake that was made. If you didn't learn from them then, you may not get a next time." Buck referred to his unit as "pioneers".

The Battle of Saipan is the most memorable for PFC Buck. There was a special unit of 168; Buck was one of five that returned. A lieutenant wrote a note in the hospital asking that Buck receive a Medal of Honor for his bravery in the field. Buck had saved his life in the field that day. The lieutenant died three days later and apologized in the note for not living to make sure Ervin would get the medal. Buck's reply," That note means more to me than any of the medals I have received." Buck remembers everything from 59 years ago. "Nothing that happened over there is something you could ever forget."

Ervin was discharged in 1945. He came home to McGrath, married his high school sweetheart and started farming. He and his wife, Doris, raised five children. They have 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Ervin does woodworking for a hobby, although he is very humble about the incredible work he does. Buck is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys deer hunting. He has quite a collection of trophy racks. Not hard to believe with a last name like Buck!

Ervin has a grandson graduating from high school this spring who has taken great pride in his wrestling years. He has many medals to show from wrestling and Grandpa could not be prouder. There must be some genetic connection to dedication and success. Both Ervin and his grandson have medals to show their dedication and sacrifices for what they love the most.

Like many servicemen, Buck believes that you don't have to be decorated with medals to be a hero. Not many veterans received recognition for their heroic actions; to them they only did the order of the day and it was all in the line of duty.

Private First Class Ervin Buck is a war hero. He saved lives and put his own life on the line to do so. He made many sacrifices and some of them he can still feel from his battle wounds. Our veterans of this country sacrificed a lot so we could hold on to our freedom, the freedom that we all take for granted. Ervin hopes that our young people will never have to go through what they did. The Marines hold a special closeness and camaraderie that not even they themselves can explain and they don't have to explain it, they understand. In the words of the Marine motto, "Semper Fidelis" which is Latin for "Always Faithful." And true to these words is Private First Class Ervin Buck.

Editor's Note:
The Marine of the Year award is given yearly to a Marine that has been nominated by fellow marines. There is a National Convention in August and all Marines that have earned Marine of the Year in their detachment qualify to be the National Marine of the year. The panel of judges is made up of past National Marines of the Year. Being honored and nominated for Marine of the Year is quite an accomplishment; this shows that you have served your country well and your fellow colleagues feel you deserve this honor.

The Marine Corps League was founded in 1923. It is classified as a veterans/military service organization to promote the interests of the US Marine Corps. It provides camaraderie and assistance to Marines, as well as to their widows and orphans. The League strives to preserve the traditions of the Marine Corps.