This morning, 87-year-old L.C. Rice will get up around 5 a.m., put on his U.S. Navy uniform that still fits, and remember death.
"We rushed around, trying to help, and I had a man die right in my arms," said Lloyd C. Rice, talking about the Pearl Harbor attack 69 years ago today.
Rice served in the military in peace and war until 1973, but in December 1941, Rice had been in the Navy 10 months since hitch-hiking to Charlotte to enlist. He made $21 a month.
A skinny runt of a machinist mate whose ship, the USS Pennsylvania, was in dry dock at Pearl Harbor, Rice had just finished guard duty that Sunday morning when the bombs started to fall.
"I was 18 years old, most of us were kids or not much more, and here we were picking up the wounded and the dead," said Rice. "That kinda stuff, you tend to remember it.
"Sticks with ya."
Rice killed countless men in wars after that day - that was his job.
"I did it plenty, and you never get used to it," said Rice. "Awful. Terrible."
He watched in later years while his friends died as ships he was aboard were sunk in the Pacific, and the bombs fell on the battlefields of France, and the bullets flew in the frozen wastes of Korea.
He has never forgotten all those dead at Pearl Harbor, too. He is still roused from sleep sometimes, thanks to the awful memory of death in his arms.
"That guy in my arms, I don't know who he was," said Rice. "Didn't know the others that died, either. But they were somebody."
Some 2,403 somebodies died that day; 1,178 were wounded.
One of those wounded had enlisted that same January in 1941, along with his stepbrother. Bill Lovelace and Ardrey Hasty of Rock Hill joined the Army. Both were at Hickam Field Army air base adjacent to Pearl Harbor.
"Bill never talked about what happened, he would just say that they started running and he tried to save Ardrey but he couldn't and he got his leg blown off," said June Lovelace, Bill Lovelace's widow. "It was so horrible and terrible, he wouldn't talk about it. Plenty tried, including me, and I was his wife."
One of those who died was Ardrey Hasty. Hasty, 18, died that morning as the bombs fell from planes and machine gun fire strafed the fleeing men.
Lovelace, 18 at the time he was wounded, would recuperate without his left leg, and eventually come back to Rock Hill and start a family. He had six children, worked at a store for years, and died in 1983.
"Daddy never in my life would say a thing about it," said Billie McFadden, one of Lovelace's daughters. "People would ask him to tell about Pearl Harbor, he would look at his prosthetic leg and change the subject."
Asbury Hoke and Ralph Martin, both of Rock Hill and later to become brothers-in-law when Hoke married Martin's sister, were Army airplane mechanics at the time of the attacks.
In 2000, Hoke told me how he heard the planes, looked out of the tent and saw a plane that was so close he could see the pilot. Hoke and another soldier jumped into a truck and headed for Hickam Field, where the planes were destroyed.
"A plane was coming at us, and I said, 'You bail out one side and I'll bail out the other,' " Hoke said 10 years ago. "The plane strafed us and the truck, and he missed both of us and the truck. We got the truck and continued on."
Both Martin and Hoke died in 2005.
Nobody will probably ever know how many hundreds or thousands of area young men went off to World War II because of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
The attack prompted so many to enlist, and more were drafted. So many were heroic.
Those veterans are almost all gone. But not all of them.
L.C. Rice, 87, spent Monday preparing for today's anniversary. He is planning to give a short speech at a ceremony at the Veterans Garden at Glencairn Garden.
Rice looked at dozens of awards and commendations he received in 30-plus years in the military. He looked at old pictures of himself.
"The dead and the wounded," Rice said. "You think about why Pearl Harbor matters, why it should still after all these years. All those guys died or were shot to pieces.
"Hell, if they don't deserve a day to remember them, this country ain't the great place I know it to be."
Want to go?
Post 2889 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars will hold a Pearl Harbor service at 8 this morning at the Veterans Garden at Glencairn Garden. Pearl Harbor survivor L.C. Rice will speak. The event is open to the public.