Southern Utah News Articles
Honoring our Heroes - Neil Crosby
The Honor Flight Program is a nationwide program with a mission of honoring WWII Veterans by flying them to Washington, D.C., to see the war memorials. This is done through private and corporate donations. Three local heroes have been honored this summer – Cloyd Chamberlain, Neil Crosby and Julian Fox.
What’s even more humbling is these three men not only served our great nation as young men, they went on to become important community leaders! They have spent their lives in this area as role models, and important church and community servants. We thank them for their service in all of those endeavors. This is the second in a three-part series on the local veterans.
“The monuments were very impressive,” said Crosby, of his recent Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C. He was among the 52 total (with guardians) that traveled to Baltimore and then on to our nation’s capital. Neil’s son Sean accompanied him. He expressed gratitude to those who organized and raised funds for the trip. “It was good because they realized that many Vets would never get the opportunity to travel to see the memorials.”
Neil Crosby has lived in Kanab all of his life, and is in fact, a great-grandson of Jacob Hamblin. “I’ve always been here, except when I was in the Army and taking schooling at the U.”
He and wife Emily Marie (who has since passed away), raised their family of five in Kanab, and were involved in community and church. Neil held the important job of pharmacist. “It was the only one in town,” said Crosby. “It was in the old building where Zions Bank now stands. You get to know a lot of folks when you’re the pharmacist.”
Crosby shared that he was 18 when drafted, and that most of the males called to serve were young and frightened. For a desert native like Crosby, the South Pacific assignment he got must have seemed so different from what he was accustomed! He trained for 17 weeks at Camp Roberts in Paso Robles near San Francisco.”
“I remember standing on the deck of our troop ship, and sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge,” Crosby recalled. “Many of us were seeing sights like that for the first time.”
“I served in the Army infantry, in basic first aid,” said Crosby, of his service. “I was sent to different locales in New Guinea as a private. I was always walking around with two canisters of blood plasma on my back.”
It was the rainy season when he arrived, with the weather warm and muggy. “We would march all day, and then dig our foxholes for sleep. It was crazy crawling in them when everything was so hot and humid.”
Crosby said it was their job to render immediate first aid to the wounded. The job could be harrowing and heart breaking at times, but on a couple of occasions it was almost comic. “One time I got called to help a soldier who had shot himself in the foot ... while playing cards. I was told that they needed a medic and a vehicle.”
Another time, Crosby’s first aid unit was making camp and digging foxholes. Artillery shells began coming in and were splattering mud on the soldiers. “I wasn’t exposed to combat, but the Navy had been bombarding the island all night for our security. We were making our way up the beach,” recalled Crosby, “when all of the sudden our doctor said, ‘I’ve been hit, I’ve been hit.’ We all dropped our packs and ran to help. The artillery fire had hit a coconut up in a tree above us, and its warm milk was dripping down the back of his neck and back, making him think he had been shot.”
Crosby said that he enjoyed his service. “It taught young men to obey and respect the law, and it certainly gave me new life experiences,” he admitted.
“The Honor Flight was great, it not only gave us the opportunity to see the memorials, but to visit with other Veterans who served in different capacities of the military at the same time.”
Crosby said that the southern Utah flight was honored when U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch and U.S. Congressman Rob Bishop came to meet them. “And everywhere we went, people were shaking our hands and thanking us for our service. It really touched our hearts.”