A standing ovation was given at the Michigan Senate for a 98-year-old Mid-Michigan veteran who’s survived some of the worst things humanity has seen.
Sgt.Major Ken Rice, a World War II Marine veteran from Bad Axe, was honored Thursday for the 25th annual Senate Memorial Day Service.
Michigan Senator Ken Horn read about Rice’s time in World War II and the Korean War to the Senate.
"He has had just an amazing, extraordinary story," Horn said.
Rice entered the Marines after graduating high school in 1939 and enlisted as an aviator. He was sent to China in the mid-1940s and then on to Bataan in the Philippines.
He was there when Bataan fell, was captured by the Japanese, and survived the infamous Bataan Death March.
Rice was aboard the Japanese “Hell Ship” as a prisoner of war when it was sunk by an American submarine in 1943. He was on deck and survived while 700 American POWs below deck drowned.
He was sent to a prison camp outside Nagasaki. Rice was there when the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.
"The American POWs that were working underground in the mines survived and knew something big had happened up above because the guards never came back for them," Horn said.
Rice and another POW made it to Camp 17 in Fukuoka, Japan where they were put aboard a cargo plane, and taken to a hospital in Guam. He eventually made it home to Bad Axe.
Rice remained in the Marines after the war and was sent to Korea in 1951 as an air observer on the front lines.
Rice retired from the Marines in 1960 and now lives in Saginaw.
Rice was not the only Mid-Michigan veteran who was honored for his service on Thursday.
State Senator Jim Ananich recognized retired Major Sgt. Tony Parker. He served 20 years in the U.S. military. Parker saw action in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"Our state and nation owes Sgt. Parker a true debt of gratitude for his commitment to our safety and the values in which we stand. He has truly made Flint and the State of Michigan proud. Thank you," Ananich said.
Keynote Speaker Brian Daniels, of Lansing, served in the Army during Iraqi Freedom. He was injured when his Humvee struck an IED. He was the only survivor.
Daniels wants everyone to remember the meaning behind Memorial Day.
"It's not about the golf games and cookouts, the red, white and blue tablecloths, or beer bottles. It's about the fathers, brothers and sons, mothers, sisters and daughters who can't be there," Daniels said.
It is something Horn and other state lawmakers acknowledged.
"A nation that fails to honor its heroes soon will have no heroes to honor," Horn said.