MOSS BLUFF, LA (KPLC) - On Friday morning, the Lake Charles American Legion, post 551 arrived at the family home of Clarence Chantlin to bestow him with a veteran cap and a letter of appreciation for his service.
Chantlin was only 18 years old when he was aboard the USS Emmons as it came under attack by Japanese kamikaze pilots. Chantlin says that he came to the deck of the ship and saw it all burning down.
"I went through so much in my life that it makes me humble today at my age. When I heard the fourth kamikaze strike the ship, you couldn't hear nothing anymore, and when we got on the top side, that ship was torn to pieces and on fire. So we just got in the water."
Chantlin dove into the shark-infested waters and had to keep himself afloat for nearly three hours as the tide pulled him deeper into the water.
He says that he only had two items in his pocket, a deck of cards and a cross that his sister gave to him before he departed for duty.
His family says that he wouldn't have made it out alive if he hadn't had that cross with him. Chantlin now keeps that cross in a glass case with all of his medals he earned in the service. Right next to his purple heart award.
When the American Legion found out that Chantlin was still alive, they quickly jumped into action.
"We thought the least we could do is recognize him with a veteran cap and a letter of appreciation", Says Edward C. Hudson of the American Legion.
Chantlin saw today as a blessing, and that God is on his side.
"Well I appreciate it and it makes me feel good. Makes me feel that people didn't forget about me, somebody's looking out."
Henry Batiste from the American Legion says that these are the type of moments that we need to enjoy while we can. The stories that these men have to tell is important to who they are and what they have been through.
The United States Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that we lose roughly 350 WWII veterans every day.
With the number of veterans from WWII on a rapid decline, the American Legion says to always make time for a veteran in your life and never forget their incredible stories.