One of them lives right here in Our Town. WCIA-3's Amanda Porterfield introduces us to this week's Hometown Hero, Arthur Leenerman.
You can't tell his story without Don McCall's. At a reunion for the U.S.S. Indianapolis survivors, they sit side-by-side.
"It's easier now than it used to be."
Artifacts and replicas at the Indianapolis War Memorial tell their hard tale. In July 1945, more than 1,100 men were aboard the U.S.S Indianapolis. They'd just delivered the bomb that dropped on Hiroshima and ended World War II.
"We got sunk at midnight, of course, and by the next morning, we thought, we'll they'll be starting to look for us, and maybe they'll find us that day. And, um, nothing happened."
"They didn't want the Japanese to find out that we had broken their radio code. So, they didn't report us missing. By the time they actually found us, we were all in bad shape."
"How did that make you feel?"
300 men died instantly. And as they waited to be rescued, many more were eaten by sharks.
"Of course it wasn't very comfortable seeing those little guys running around."
"They were big guys."
"Yeah, they were big guys."
"What you'd do, you would see a life jacket bobbing up and down. You would turn it over and there's nothing underneath it."
Leenerman, McCall and hundreds of others floated in the middle of the pacific for four days.
"You always have hope. As long as you are still breathing and still alive, you have hope."
And that hope carried them until they were saved by accident. A plane flying over just happened to spot them, rescuing 317 survivors from the water, but not their memories.
"Watching this was a horrible life, and I brought it all home with me."
"How did you feel when you got back home? When you got back to the U.S.?"
"Well, we felt pretty good because we thought life was going to start again. Because it seemed like, during that four years in the service, that my life came to here and stopped. Then it started again four years later."
"Everyone here appreciates what you've done for us."
It would be decades later that these two would first meet at a survivor's reunion, learning they'd been living in the same county and had gone through the same experience. With family in tow, Leenerman and McCall attend each reunion as a pair.
"When we started our reunions, there were 200-of us still alive. Now, we are down to about 40. But, we are still all good friends. We enjoy seeing each other every year."
"People like to call us heroes and I don't think I'm a hero. I am a survivor. The heroes, in my opinion, are still out there."
Heroes that are lost, but not forgotten. This year, only 19-survivors were able to attend the reunion. But, as that number continues to shrink, their legacy lives on through books, a movie, medals, memorials and their loved ones.