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Central Texas veteran's family wants his legacy to endure

“He passed away on Oct. 20th, which is the same day he discharged from the Navy in 1945."
Posted at 3:17 PM, Nov 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-11 21:41:35-05

They were often called the greatest generation. Young men and women who braved the most perilous conditions during WWII, from the battlefields of Europe to the Pacific.

Most of those veterans are gone now. But they will never be forgotten, and that’s especially true for local legend J.C. Alston.

Drive through the tiny town of Troy off I-35, and it's easy to spot the house with the ramp and chair out front.

Recently, Alston's granddaughter returned by herself for the first time since his passing.

“Just the big presence of his loss, of him gone, it’s overwhelming," Short said. "They were always bringing him little things like this blanket."

Alston lived in his Troy home for 70-plus years. Memories of his time in Texas, but especially his service during WWII, are scattered everywhere throughout the home.

“This [photo] was taken in Pearl Harbor," said Short. "When you go through an experience like he had, nothing is more important than living every day to the fullest.”

J.C. survived Pearl Harbor, where on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, he was on watch aboard the USS California.

“One of the airplanes got close enough he could see the whites of the pilot’s eyes," said Short. "The noises, and at first they weren’t sure what it was, but whenever that torpedo hit the ship there was no doubt in your mind.”

Short says the Japanese attack that day forever altered her grandfather's life.

"Swimming through the oil and the fire," said Short. "There was a tanker next to his ship full of fuel, and if it’d been hit none of us would be here.”

After surviving Pearl Harbor, Alston stayed in the Pacific theatre for another three and a half years until Japan’s surrender. He watched that in person in Tokyo Bay.

Three years ago, 25 News caught up with the decorated war hero on his then 95th birthday.

“I was thinking about all the people that would get killed if we didn’t win," said Alston. "That is what I fought for and it’s still here.”

Alston said then the American flag is a representation of everything he fought for, and then lived for, after he returned to Central Texas to work and raise a family.

"He wasn’t just a Pearl Harbor survivor; he was the best patriarch a family could ask for," said Short.

Alston soon married, had children, grandchildren and even got the chance to see great-grandchildren. His job for decades was inside the local VA.

"He didn’t want anyone to forget what the country went through," said Short.

Eventually, he started opening up bout the horror of that day in the harbor. It never left him, but Stacey says it didn’t define him.

On this Veteran’s day, the first J.C. will miss, his family says they’ll miss him even more.

“He passed away on Oct. 20th, which is the same day he discharged from the Navy in 1945," said Short.

A sign from above? His family says maybe. The one thing they know for sure is he’s watching over them now after making the most of 98 incredible years.

"That was granddad," said Short. "Everything he did was with love and purpose.”

To read more about J.C.'s Naval service and life, click here.