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WNC Bataan Death March Survivor Receives State's Top Honor

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In the dining hall of the VA Community Living Center in Asheville, 96 year old Wayne Carringer sat tall in his wheelchair, stationed next to the podium, where former State Representative Joe Sam Queen, recalled the brutal highlights of his distinguished military career

“He has lived the blood and guts of history, and served admirably “Former State Representative Joe Sam Queen told the crowd.

The Graham county native had been stationed in the Philippines for just two weeks when Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. Soon after he was sent to the Bataan Peninsula where he fought on the front lines until Bataan was taken over by the Japanese.

 HC: Do you remember that moment when you were captured?

“It was terrible to lose your freedom I really didn’t understand what was about to happen, it's probably a good idea that I didn't. ” says Carringer.  

Carringer was among the thousands of American and Filipino solders forced to make a treacherous 65 mile march to prison camps, known as the Bataan death march.  He was a POW for nearly three and a half years, his weight dropping to under 100 pounds, learning him the name ghost soldier.

HC: How did you survive?                                      

“First, my confidence in God,” says Carringer, “my second is my country, my third fellow man and the fourth in in myself. “

When he finally made it home, back to North Carolina, Carringer started a family, a business and continued his service to the community, a longtime active member of the American Legion and the Masons, and a volunteer counselor at the VA.  A lifetime of service that, was recognized with the state’s highest honor, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

“Congratulations Wayne” (crowd applauds)

After the service, the honoree was humbled about his award, but did share a few words of advice...

“Never give up,” says Carringer, “today’s going to be good, and tomorrow’s going to be better. “

 And then with the award in hand, Carringer was off, he had work to do and plans for a hamburger lunch with a buddy.

 “How do you like your burger?

“I like fries, and no cheese”

For BPR News, I’m Helen Chickering

 

 

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.