FRONTENAC — Earl (Casey) Bangert was aboard the U.S.S. Monaghan during the attack on Pearl Harbor when he saw the “fish” come towards his boat.
This “fish” was no laughing matter — it was a torpedo fired at his ship by the Japanese.
“It missed us — thank God,” Bangert said.
Bangert is one of the few service members remaining who served at Pearl Harbor during the Dec. 7, 1941 attack. He was in the U.S. Navy and retired with the rank of Chief Petty Officer in 1960, after serving 20 years in the military — he was only 37. He’s now 95 and resides at Oakview Estates in Frontenac.
For his service in the military, he was honored Tuesday with a quilt created by one of the members of the Little Balkans Quilt Guild, Sooki Fields.
“We do this to honor the veterans that serve our country,” she said.
Fields said she learned of Bangert’s story when World War II veteran Homer Cole recommended him to her. Cole is also to receive a blanket, however, he wanted his “good friend” to receive the attention he “deserved” that day, he said.
“He was remarkable at Pearl Harbor,” Cole said. “It had to have been a rough deal.”
Cole met Bangert years ago and he applauded Bangert for not only his service, but also for the way he has managed his daily life, especially the many things he still does at the age of 95, he said.
Cole often stops by to play cards with Bangert.
Fields’ husband, Larry, also joined his wife in presenting the quilt and as someone who has been in the military, he takes great honor in doing so, he said.
“It’s an honor to know someone like that,” he said. “I’m proud to know him and call him a friend.”
During the quilt presentation, Frontenac American Legion members shook his hand and chatted with their fellow veteran.
In addition to Pearl Harbor, Bangert was also at the Battle of Midway — often considered the turning point of the war in the Pacific.
After he retired from the military he left with “battle scars” as awards, he said chuckling when asked about recognition for his service.
Bangert said he joined the Navy because his brother Stanley had joined a few years prior to him. Unfortunately, his brother perished at sea after his submarine was sunk.
Bangert keeps a special reminder of his brother on the wall in his room — a folded flag, photos and other keepsakes.
Also reminding him of years’ past are the images on an adjacent wall, of his time in the Navy on along with photographs of his parents. People will also know exactly which room he’s in because of a sign which reads “US Navy Sailors Parking Only” on his door.
And of course, he now has the quilt, which was named “Shining Stars.” It was neatly placed on his bed by the time his guests left, replacing his “too fluffy” blanket.
He said he was pleased with Sooki Fields’ handiwork.
People who know Bangert may have also wondered why he often goes by the name Casey. It’s not his middle name — it all started at bootcamp. He was wearing a shirt which read “Casey” across his chest at bootcamp and “no one knew me, so they started calling me Casey,” he said with a chuckle.
This was the answer to the question Oakview Estates Facility Director Desiree Humble had.
His history, Humble said, came to a surprise for her.
“I have a lot of veterans who have lived or or live here, but I had no idea … he’s just amazing,” she said.
Bangert, originally from Iowa then, South Dakota and New Mexico, met his wife Sandra Blair in Pittsburg, they were married for 25 years until her passing. When she died, he said he stayed in the area to be buried next to his wife when the time comes.
“I met a nice gal from Pittsburg, Sandra Blair,” he said.
Bangert said he was “flabbergasted” at the attention he has received Tuesday.
“I appreciate all you have done … you are a bunch of good guys, you are a bunch of heroes,” he said to everyone in attendance at the presentation.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.