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Ashe County Veterans History Project: Ernest Blevins

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Ernest Blevins's Photos

Ernest Blevins's Story

Ernest G. Blevins was born on November 17, 1924, in Damascus, Virginia.  He had an older brother Robert and a younger brother Norval.  His father, Samuel Lawrence Blevins, was a farmer and his mother, Creecy Howell Blevins, was a housekeeper / cook at the Phipps farmhouse in Lansing.  Ernest's father died when he was two years old, so he went to live with his grandmother, Lura Howell.  Times were hard for many during the depression days.  Since they worked on a farm and were able to stock up for the winter months, Ernest and his family were lucky to have the best food.  He remembers how his grandmother wrote a handwritten letter to Congressman R.L. Doughton requesting help and this brought welfare relief to the area for those who needed food.

Ernest shared one humorous story that taught a valuable lesson.  While at sea with no ability to launder their clothes, a fellow soldier decided to 'wash' his pants in the ocean.  The dungarees were lowered on a rope and dragged underwater for probably a day.  Later when they were pulled back up, there was nothing left but one pocket and half a leg.  Lesson learned: saltwater is not good for washing clothes!

Another time at sea, while on the way to Japan, one soldier was washed overboard.  In quick response, a lifesaver was cut by a Marine who happened to witness the accident and flung off the deck into the water to help the flailing Marine stay afloat until rescue.  Although this action probably saved the soldier's life, there was quite an investigation about who actually cut the rope without official orders to take action. 

When occupational duty was over, the soldiers had to take small boats out to sea in order to board their larger return ship.  The anchor on Ernest's boat got hooked on some debris and couldn't get loose.  Ernest remembers hearing one soldier wail, "I want to go home!"  Finally someone gained courage to cut the anchor's rope (without official orders) and free their boat.  Everyone was ready to get back quick.

Ernest registered for the Marines with his good friend Joe Hart in 1942, but he was not called to duty until November 1943.  Just before his service time began, he married the love of his life, Marie Darnell, on September 4, 1943.  He remembers traveling on an old worn-out bus that vibrated all the way to basic training in Paris Island, South Carolina. Joe mentioned: "You've heard of The Liberator?... They should call this bus "The Viberator."  One memorable moment was running into his old buddy Joe in a chow line while on occupational duty, several years after that bus ride and after the war.

Before he left to fight, Marie's grandmother told her to read Psalm 91 and her grandfather gave Ernest a pocket testament.  Even though Ernest had two close calls with enemy fire, he never got a scratch and had no fear of death.  On thinking back over what he went though, he always thought, "I'm here, this is where I am supposed to be and tomorrow is another day." (Psalm 91 v: I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.)

During his time in Japan, he was working in Sasabo, near a site that had been devastated by the bombing of Hiroshima.  Ernest describes the landscape to look a lot like West Jefferson. He also worked a motor transport job, driving the colonel around the Naval airstrip on the island of Maui.  He recalled fixing the jeep up with cushions and a door installed on the colonel's side to make the ride more comfortable.

Later, while on a ship in Pearl Harbor, Ernest got word that his son, Ernest Michael, had been born.  He looked forward to the day when he would see his son.  Thirteen months later, coming home was an emotional time.  Michael was ill and not expected to live.  Ernest was lucky to get a seat on a flight out of San Diego to Chicago and then rode a Pullman Train car to Bristol, Tennessee. On arrival he received good news that the fever had broken and his son would recover.

The date February 23 seemed to have significant meaning in connection to important dates in Ernest's military career.  On February 23, 1944, he finished boot camp. On February 23, 1945,  the Marines took Iwo Jima, when he worked with his troop to put up a command post at the base of Mount Sirabachi.  And finally on February 23, 1946, Ernest was discharged from the Marines.

On thinking back about these dates, and the number 23 in particular, another verse from the book of Psalms 23 described exactly how Ernest felt while in the midst of the worst battle ... v.4: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

When returning to Hawaii, after the battle of Iwo Jima,  Ernest and his comrades heard that President Roosevelt had died. “This really tore me up. FDR had brought us through the depths of depression.  He had been my president for twelve years.  When America was poor .. rock bottom ... he went to work and things got done."

After his service years, Ernest started out farming with help from the GI Bill, but a couple of years later he decided to find more profitable work.  At the time his wife, Marie, got sick and was initially diagnosed with TB.  Doctors sent her to a sanatorium in Black Mountain, NC, where she stayed for two-and-a-half months.  When her health problems continued, Ernest took his wife to Delaware to see a specialist.  There it was determined that Marie had a cystic lung and with proper treatment was able to recover.    

After living and working in Delaware for a while Ernest moved back to Ashe County and bought an old house, known today as Buffalo Tavern.  He and his wife Marie opened up a Christian Book Store in West Jefferson, which they operated for thirteen years.  Ernest also worked in the automotive business for Superior Pontiac.