The passing of Juan Luis Ramirez
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
The family of fallen WWI veteran Juan Ramirez is presented with a flag during a military ceremony at Calvary Cemetery on Sept. 16.
Veterans’ Voices is directed toward veterans and their families who have given so much to ensure our freedom in this country. This is an area where you may share your experiences, or read of other veterans’ experiences. We thank you for your service, and hope that you know how much you are loved and appreciated.
The family of Juan Ramirez was planning to have a birthday celebration for Juan, who was turning 100 years old on November 19. They were contacting family members to schedule the party. Juan was a well-known man in Madera. He was a family man who loved to have BBQs at his house to just visit with his children, eight grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren and one great great grandchild. Then, all of a sudden, the planning of the birthday party was stopped.
On September 3, Juan passed away.
The family had to stop planning for his birthday and start planning for his funeral.
Juan’s family moved to Madera when he was three years old. He remembered that Madera was a quiet little town., recalling that everybody was skating in the summertime and swimming in the canals. He was 19 years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1942. At that time, he was working in the fields around Madera. He knew that, because he was of age, he would be called to serve in the military. Well, he was correct.
On Dec. 20, 1942, he entered the U.S. Army, and went into medical school. Juan was then known as “GI Joe.” He trained at Camp Berkley Texas, where he learned cooking and medical procedures. He found, even with those job titles, he still had to train wearing gas masks and perform the regular training like crawling under perimeter wires.
Juan was transferred to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Sheepshead Bay where he trained for the seas. Finally on June 21, 1943, he was sent off to save lives. He scoured the seas with the rest of his crew on the 201st Hospital Ship. They went all over Europe, Africa, Italy, Tunisia, Sicily, Anzio, and southern France.
One time as they were pulling out of Naples Bay during the late evening, they set off flares to display that they were a medical ship so they would not be destroyed. When they were out in the middle of the ocean, air raids started. The airplanes didn’t care who they were even though they were a medical ship. The airplanes started to rattle bullets down on the ship splintering the wood. He remembered all of the shooting, noise and rocking of the ship. The bullets were landing within six feet of Juan and his crew. Luckily shortly after the air raid started, the artillery company on shore shot the plane out of the sky. Juan would never forget that evening for the rest of his life.
Another time, when the crew was working, they had a comrade that was just laying there, not moving. They started observing him to come to some kind of conclusion of his diagnosis. He had a heartbeat but seemed otherwise okay, but he would not wake up. Looked like he was just asleep. He attempted everything he could think of to wake him up without success. They tried for the rest of the night to no avail. They tried the next morning, but no. No chance. They thought it was just hopeless. Then a friend of the soldier said, “I know how to wake him up.”
He lit up a cigarette and gave it to his friend. He instantly woke up and started smoking the cigarette. They assumed he was just in shock and traumatized.
On Sept. 24, 1945, Juan was honorably discharged and came back to Madera with his family. He got home the same day that his daughter was born.
On Sept. 16, 2022, I had the honor of speaking at his funeral, doing his internment. I remember there were many of his family and friends there as witnesses.
Juan was a true-hearted comrade, and a fearless defender of his country and flag. I do believe that our country’s flag was made redder by his heroism; the white stainlessly pure by the motives that compelled him and in the starry field of our nations glorious banner; the blue, glorified by service to the country and American ideals he gave his life for. I do believe that the example set by him will prove to be a glorious beacon to the youth of our country who may be called to uphold the honor of our flag.
Juan, you will be missed by many, but we believe you are in a better place.
You can email me at AboutVets@yahoo.com.
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Royal D. Goodman, U.S. Army/Vietnam,
1st Cav/9th Infantry