Memorial Day Reflections: Corporal Joe Griffin

A WWII veteran and resident of Buckner Villas in Austin recalls the letter he received before he headed to Pearl Harbor, and the beauty of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

By Haley Howle & Hannah McBrideMay 21, 2015 8:04 am

The Texas Standard collected the memories of veterans across the state for Memorial Day 2015.

Austinite Joe Griffin was born in Hooks, Texas.

“I got a real important letter from Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” he says. “Lady by the name of Pearl Harbor causing some trouble, let me go check on her. Before sundown that day, I found out Pearl Harbor was not a lady – it was a place.”

Five months after joining the Marine Corps, he found himself in Japan. He served two years before getting a medical discharge from being wounded. He was at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Memorial Day in the mid-1940s.

“It’s the most moving experience to which any of us ever have the privilege of going,” he says. “And I didn’t know anything about it – did not plan it, didn’t know it was Memorial Day.”

He witnessed the Memorial Day service at the Tomb. “I saw the whole beautiful ceremony as it unfolded,” he says. “‘Here lies in honored glory, an American soldier known but to God.’ … It’s just an experience of a lifetime that you will never, never forget.”

Send us your Memorial Day memories on Twitter (@texasstandard) or via email (