A very smart man once said, “Only a life lived in the service to others is worth living.”
In the case of Herb Markley of London, it might be said a that a long life of service is the one worth living.
At the age of 94, he has devoted the greater part of his time on earth to serving his fellow countrymen as an officer in the United States Navy, and later, proudly serving Madison County as both Sheriff and Commissioner.
Born Herbert Cooper Markley in 1923 in Catawba, Ohio, he moved with his family to Madison County at age nine — to the Township of Somerford.
“Good old Somerford,” Markley said, jovially. There he attended the local elementary school, before graduating from London High School in 1941.
On completing high school, Markley enrolled at Cedarville College and started studies for a liberal arts education. “I wanted to teach and coach, ya know,” he said “It was a wonderful college.”
During his second year at Cedarville his life would take a dramatic turn.
It was 1943. Franklin D. Roosevelt was president and the United States was heavily involved in World War II.
Fall semester of that year, at age 18, Markley received in the mail a letter — a letter many young men of his generation would receive, that would not only change their lives individually, but the future of the entire country.
Markley had been drafted.
“Mr. Roosevelt called and asked me to come,” he said with a slight chuckle.
He opted to join the United States Navy.
By November of that same year he was at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois for boot camp. Upon completion, he left Illinois for New York, and then on to Boston, where he boarded his battleship the USS Texas as a Radarman 2nd Class.
“I was in the radar shack where we plotted the course and speeds for the captain and that type of stuff. Everyone manned the radar machine,” he said.
Throughout the war, the main role of the USS Texas was to act as a convoy escort.
For his first mission, the USS Texas sailed from Boston to Africa. “It was a mission of goodwill, transporting to the people things they needed,” Markley informed.
The next year Markley would find himself having a front seat in the European Theater for one of its most dramatic events.
The USS Texas was one of 702 ships of a combined U.S.-British flotilla that participated in the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Later that month on June 25, the USS Texas was damaged when she was hit by two German shells during the Bombardment of Cherbourg, France. The first shell exploded and damaged the conning tower — a structure used in navigation and steering.
In the ensuing chaos, Markley carried injured crew mate Emil Saul to safety. To him, it was nothing heroic, just something that had to be done. “Oh well, a lot of us did that — that wasn’t something that I just did,” he said.
Later it was discovered that a second shell had embedded itself mid-ship, but hadn’t exploded, Markley related. The USS Texas sailed to Portsmouth, England to dry-dock and have the shell disarmed and removed.
Eventually, the USS Texas set a course for to the Pacific Theater via the Panama Canal.
In the Pacific Theater, Markley served his country in another famed incident of America and world history — the Battle of Iwo Jima.
His voiced cracked with emotion as he reminisced of the day that Japan surrendered.
“When they surrendered and the flag went up on Iwo Jima on Mount Suribachi — when those five guys put our beautiful flag on that old mountain, and we were all watching, a great big shout went up — to see our beautiful flag and to know we were closer to coming home. A wonderful time,” he proudly remembered.
Markley served nearly three years in the U.S. Navy.
He returned to Ohio and picked up his old life right where he left off — he re-enrolled in Cedarville College.
There he met his future wife and mother of his children, Norma Dillon. They had four children, seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Always a man of service, Markley became a Sheriff’s deputy in 1950. By 1956 he was Sheriff. He served as Sheriff until 1981, and then successfully campaigned for County Commission. He retired from the Commissioner’s seat in 1999.
Reach Andrew Garrett at 740-852-1616, ext. 1616.