Honor Flight: 'A big wave came up and flipped me over in shark infested waters'
EUGENE, Ore. - Del Long was 17 years old when he joined the Marines.
"After seeing what happened at Pearl Harbor, why I just couldn't contain myself," he said. "I wanted to get in."
Del just turned 92.
He still has vivid memories of the war and the time he borrowed a homemade sailboat to go to another island where the natives lived.
"I was tacking back and forth against the wind when a big wave came up and flipped me over in shark infested waters," he said. "It scared the daylights out of me."
He got the boat upright again - but says it was one of the longest night's of his life.
"Nobody knew where I was at, would never have come looking for me and I was done for," he said. "And all night long I did my best to try and get to shore."
After the Marines, Del went back to school.
"A high school dropout, so I didn't have much education," he said. "But I got into San Diego State College under special adult status while I went ahead to night school and got my high school diploma."
In 33 months, Del had his high school diploma - and his Bachelor's degree.
He went on to a career with the Boy Scouts of America before spending many years as a teacher.
Del said he made a small investment in the World War II memorial project.
"So I've been anxious to see it," he said. "When I went back there in '96 of course it wasn't built, and so I've been curious to see what it looks like."
Three dozens veterans who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam leave May 11 on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
KVAL News anchor David Walker and photojournalist Loren Ruark will be with them.