(KYTX) - This East Texas Heroes report has a personal meaning our friend and co-worker Justin Earley.
His grandfather, Irvin Palone is from Oklahoma. But his training right here in Tyler, at Camp Fannin -- prepared him for World War II.
Here's his inspiring story.
"I saw the old photos in boxes of pictures when I was a little boy, and I knew my Grandpa Irvin was a soldier in Japan. But he didn't talk about it much."
"Even as an adult, I hesitated to ask questions, but something told me it was time to hear his story.
Down this country lane in Westville, Oklahoma, Irvin Palone grew up with his sister and three brothers. All four boys went to war - far away from everything they knew.
"You're miles away from home. You know you couldn't strike out on 'foot."
At the age of 18, in may, 1945 -- the Army drafted the small town boy. He trained at several bases including Camp Fannin in Tyler -- where he honed his weapons skills.
"Infantry training. Rifle and grenades."
"Irvin Palone spent his entire childhood in these fields and woods, hunting to provide for his family. Rabbits or squirrels, whatever he could find. So it's no surprise by the time he got to Camp Fannin, he was a pretty good shot."
"I was an expert rifleman ... expert. Boy I could lay 'em right in there. He was proud of me, the sergeant was."
Victory was declared in Japan in August 1945.
By that time, Grandpa Irvin completed his training -- and he was bound for Yokohama, Japan -- with a new mission -- extending a hand of peace during the occupation that followed the war.
"We had to inspire our enemy, to be friends with them."
Grandpa Irvin did a lot of police work and guard duty.
In a strange land that was hostile toward Americans not long before he got there, it was a hard job.
"You always had an inkling, to look over your shoulder. Have eyes in the back of your head."
But he built relationships with the Japanese both on patrol -- and working in a food warehouse.
He doled out supplies to the Japanese -- many who were starving.
"Oranges and apples and dried bread."
"They'd appreciate it. They'd thank me. They'd say arigato, means thank you."
Sometimes hungry Japanese who worked in the warehouse would try to take food from broken boxes.
"I told them keep some of it. They were hungry and everything, but we had to spare them to make them look up to us."
In his year overseas -- he even found time for a lady friend.
"What was the girls' name, the girl you went to see?
Is this her?
Yeah, yeah, that's her.. (laughs)
As life slowly began to stabilize for the Japanese -- grandpa returned home in the Fall of 1946.
"When Irvin Palone returned from overseas he took a cab from the airport to downtown Westville. After that it was horseback.. all the way home."
His neighbor offered him a lift.
"I got on the horse behind him. He said Irvin, lets go home. I said, boy that's the best word that I've heard in years. I said lets go home... let's go home.."
And he came home ... Home to his parents.
"Mom and Dad came out crying and laughing - and glad to see me."
Home to meet my grandmother, Mary Jane, and begin a 62-year marriage.
Home to find a good job and provide for my mother's upbringing.
Home to teach his grandsons -- me and my brother Aaron -- that everyone has a part to play to protect this country -- and everyone should appreciate it.
"The best country that you could ever live in."
Incidentally, all of Mr. Irvin's brothers got to return home after serving overseas.
None were killed or wounded.