For more than 50 years, Getrude McHale has lived without her husband. But only this year did the California resident find out that her late spouse was responsible for saving 45 lives while serving in the Navy during World War II, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports.
McHale was aware that Clayne Heywood was awarded a Bronze Star for his service, but said he was quiet about his time at sea and brushed off the notion that he earned the medal for something remarkable. Which is exactly what happened, before he succumbed to a heart condition after the war.
Working on a rescue boat near Bermuda in May 1944, Heywood arrived at a sinking ship; the U.S.S. Fechteler had been torpedoed and its crew had been left vulnerable in the water. Knowing another torpedo was likely to follow, he dove from his ship, assembled rafts and nets to tow the men and hauled them all to a nearby boat—right before another deadly explosion that “undoubtedly” would have killed them.
McHale, sitting among old love letters in her Capitola, Calif., apartment, told the Sentinel that she cried for three days when she found out. She had inadvertently uncovered his military record when attempting to apply for a military pension.
Veterans’ Day is certainly a day to remember somber, sobering events. Today is also a time to bask in heroism like this, actions so selfless that the sailor takes a story most people would trumpet from the rooftops to his grave.