ELGIN, Texas — It has been nearly 80 years but United States Navy and World War II veteran Dud Morris can still vividly remember the Battle of Iwo Jima.
"I was on the fifth wave on Yellow Beach, on the first day, February 19th,” Morris said. "The main boat made a motion for us to go full speed ahead."
In 1945, at age 18, the Elgin native was tasked with operating amphibious crafts to and from the beaches of one of World War II's most dangerous missions.
"We hauled the Marines in and out — very bad for young boys,” Morris said. "When you got back we said, we made it through the day. Please, (Lord), be with us tomorrow."
As the 225 members of Standard Landing Carrier Unit #38 have slowly passed, there’s now a need to share their stories and the incredible bravery too often forgotten.
"As far as I know I’m the only one left. I served with a lot of good men,” Morris said. "I talked to a lady the other day. She was 52 years old and never heard of of Iwo Jima, and that’s bad.”
"I think people need to know without their service our country wouldn’t be what it is today and we wouldn’t have the freedoms we have,” Dud’s daughter, Beverly Simmons, said.
Part of honoring the past is living every day to the fullest and Dud Morris has also taken that mission to heart.
"I think dancing makes me feel young,” Morris said.
For decades, the almost 97-year-old has spent his weekends two-stepping the night away across Central Texas, including at the Cotton Country Club in Granger.
"I went far and wide — 100 miles, 200 miles — and if I can find me a pretty lady to go with me I’d certainly do that,” Morris said.
A fan favorite, every Sunday the dance hall honors local veterans with a salute to the American flag and a singing of the national anthem.
"It’s always good to be up there with those who’ve been where you’ve been,” Morris said.
Dud is always front and center, a tribute to the 1 percent of World War II veterans still standing.
"He lives life to the fullest, he doesn’t let one day escape him,” longtime owner Bubba Cox said.
"If I was in that position again, I’d volunteer again,” Morris said. "I believe in our country.