Veteran Salute: Marine barber uses skills and humor in service

Veteran Salute

HARPER, Kan. (KSNW) – A Harper native says when he was a child World War II was still going on.

Earl Alexander was drafted during the Korean War.

He was then given the option to volunteer for the Marines.

He said they first sent him to construction school on a Seabee base before he pulled a short stent on guard duty as military police.

“1949 at Maize High School,” Marine Earl Alexander said.

From a high school letter sweater to boot camp.

“That’s pictures of my buddies,” Alexander said.

Always quick with a joke, Alexander made plenty of friends in the service.

“We were here on the dock in San Diego playing blackjack,” Alexander said.

Their punishment for this game, cleaning the bathrooms on the ship, but that wasn’t the only time the jokester got into trouble, like when he was still a Seabee.

He says another Marine, who had his same rank, gave him an order to move a boulder.

“I wasn’t particularly fond of the order he gives me, and the manner he gives me, so I told him where to go, with his boulder,” Alexander said.

Alexander said thanks to that, he was sent for a short stent with a combat unit.

“They found out that I was a barber and they said, you get out of here, you go to the headquarters and service company,” Alexander said.

He said the new assignment didn’t keep him from intense training.

Some of his training was on land, like helicopter exercises, where he said one time he barely grabbed the net in time.

“I lost some of my mess gear, it fell out,” Alexander said. “I come that close to toppling down there, they don’t have flight attendants to come check your seatbelt.”

He also did his fair share of training on water.

“We were out on the Pacific Ocean doing maneuvers,” Alexander said.

He said it was quite the feat to climb down, all while the waves were rocking the ship.

“I even carried my barber kit, down this rope ladder,” Alexander said.

He said then they would run full power to the beach.

“We come in from the mother ship in these landing craft,” Alexander said.

He said the exercises were done in the dead of the night.

“It’s kind of a dangerous option,” Alexander said

He said he also saw Marine, who got trapped underneath the boats, lose their lives.

Alexander said he remembers every landing they made, and said sometimes he felt like John Wayne in the movies.

“It gives you a certain amount of pride, to be involved in that,” Alexander said.

He also had a lot of pride in his work as a selt-taught barber.

“Twenty-one-year-old with a straight razor, etching his hairline, a straight razor is pretty sharp, and I done it without nicking him,” Alexander said.

He said there’s even more pressure when you are shaving an officer.

He said when they got good enough, they would send them to the PX on base.

“Here we had it made, we didn’t have to do mess duty, or stand watches you know, like you normally would,” Alexander said.

He said for such a good gig, it didn’t pay much.

He made $72 a month, but he said back then he could fill up his beloved convertible for just 18 cents a gallon.

“There were times we couldn’t even buy a three cent stamp,” Alexander said.

Alexander said it was all worth it since it was a lifelong dream to wear a military uniform.

He said he would even sign United States Marine Corps beside his name as a school child.

“Once a Marine, always a Marine,” Alexander said.

He said the Marines slogan, Semper Fi, or always faithful, applies to his service and his marriage.

He and his wife June got married 68 years ago.

They went on to have six children.

When Alexander got out of the service, he again relied on his Seabee training and started his own company.

He just recently retired.

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