South County veterans honor Veterans Day, appreciate the ‘Good old USA’

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Photo by Lucas Irizarry

Navy veteran Alan Boyce with his frontyard naval display on Veterans Day 2021.

By Lucas Irizarry, Staff Reporter

Every Veteran’s Day, Fourth of July and Memorial Day, veteran and South County resident Alan Boyce flies dozens of flags on his property on Von Talge Road in honor of his fellow veterans. 

“I’ve been doing it for about 18 years, and I do it because I’m a loyal patriot,” he said.

Among the flags flown is one from a St. Louis Art Museum display, where it flew among more than 3,000 flags in Forest Park in honor of the victims of 9/11. Each flag had a ribbon honoring the victims and the name of someone who died that day. Boyce’s flag features Walter Weaver, a police officer.

Boyce served for eight years in the Navy, from 1959 to 1967, as damage control aboard a couple ships, including four years on the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier. The Intrepid was built during World War II and is now the home of the Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City. Boyce said his years in the Navy were the best of his life and his time in foreign countries made him appreciate the United States even more.

“You realize how great it is to get back here, and how great it is to live here,” Boyce said. “Some of these people today have no idea what it’s like in other countries, how they live, how they’re governed. I just appreciate the good old USA.”

While Boyce was on the Intrepid, it sailed all over the world, giving him “a million dollars worth of sights for nothing.” 

Boyce grew up in St. Louis and was a Sea Scout, a more water-based branch of the Boy Scouts of America. This prompted him to want to enlist in the Navy at 17, to which his mother said no. 

“I said ‘If you don’t sign for me, I’m going to run away and I’ll join and lie about my age,’” Boyce said. “She said ‘You really want to go into the Navy?’ and I said ‘Yes I do,’ and off I went to Great Lakes (for boot camp).”

After completing boot camp, which Boyce said was likely a little more extreme than boot camps of today, he was assigned to the Intrepid. His duties as damage control included carpentry, repair and firefighting, which landed him in a dangerous situation during a three day storm in the Mediterranean Sea.

The front of aircraft carriers features a “bull nose” where two anchors are stored and used. During the storm, a cover to the area was broken by the massive waves, causing it to flood as the ship rocked. Boyce and the rest of damage control had to go to the area during the storm and shore up the hole using eight-by-eight planks. The first attempt at shoring up the hole resulted in failure according to Boyce.

“We turned back into the wind … as soon as a big wave hit, those 8×8 timbers splintered like toothpicks and blew all over where we were working,” Boyce said. “That was a terrible, terrible time. You had to be strapped into your bunk at night. We lost two planes that were chained down with 13 chains … and the little decks alongside the flight deck were rolled back like someone took a can opener to it.”

After the Intrepid, Boyce served at the White House executive office, the Chief of Naval Operations house at the Naval Observatory (now the vice president’s home) and a sea-going tug boat. Boyce hated serving on the tug, citing the disgusting engine room where he got seasick for the first time. 

Boyce still keeps up with others who served on the Intrepid and he had the opportunity to present a flag flown on the ship to the St. Louis Fisher House, named after Zachary Fisher, who helped save the Intrepid and make it into a museum in the late 70s.