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Local substitute teacher still recalls time in Iwo Jima

Published: Nov. 11, 2011 at 10:45 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 18, 2011 at 10:45 PM CST
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More than 16 million men and women served in the US Military during World War II.

Fewer and fewer are around to share their stories.

One of them is a Marine veteran, 85 years old and a local substitute teacher.

Arlin McRae was wounded while serving with the Marines in Iwo Jima and still remembers those World War II days very clearly.

All these years later, he's still able to share stories as a substitute teacher at Signature School.

Arlin McRae's military memories begin on November 23rd, 1943.

His 18th birthday and the day he got his draft notice.

"I had never shaved in my life, was just a kid," McRae recalls.

Young, but old enough to serve, McRae joined the Marines.

Five feet nine and a half inches tall and just 126 pounds.

"My nickname was chick. I was the little chick of the outfit," McRaw said.

In February of 1945, that little chick, Private First Class Arlin McRae left Hawaii for Iwo Jima.

"When we got there, there was a wall of sand near the height of this ceiling.  That sand was so loose, somebody described it as like walking in a bed of BB's."

McRae says it was a scary time, not knowing if or when you'd be hit and how bad it may be, but he didn't have to wait long.

Just eight days in, McRae took a sniper's bullet to the jaw while trying to deliver mail to a fellow marine.

"I stood up to call his name so he could hear me a little better and at that moment I got shot."

He was awarded the Purple Heart, but McRae insists he's no hero.

He came back from the war and became an English teacher, first in Tell City, then Evansville and even now, closing in on his 86th birthday, he can't seem to walk away.

McRae still substitutes at Signature School in downtown Evansville.

"They had gotten pictures from my wife and put it in the yearbook."

A two-page spread dedicated to Sig's favorite sub.

A man with so many stories and no plans to stop sharing them.