Ed Stone agreed to a little bet Thursday morning. He signed off on it with Ray Garland, who lives in Idaho and made a surprise call to Stone's house in Syracuse.
In 1940, Stone enlisted in the Navy, in Buffalo, thus beginning a journey that would put him in Pearl Harbor 76 years ago today, during the Japanese attack of Dec. 7, 1941 . Stone was on the USS Pyro, which had some edgy moments but wasn't badly damaged.
Garland, a Marine, was on the USS Tennessee. It was about 75 yards away from the USS Arizona, which was sunk by Japanese bombers. The Tennessee ignited and burned. Garland helped drag away the dead. He was scorched in the face.
He survived fire, and later ice. Garland made it through Pearl Harbor and the rest of the war, then was called into combat in the Korean War. He was shot and wounded in the brutal isolation of the Chosin Reservoir, where American troops were surrounded, far from safety, in a lunar terrain with subzero temperatures.
A YouTube video: Ray Garland reflects
Garland and the man he simply calls "Stone" became close at earlier reunions of Pearl Harbor survivors, linked in no small part by their astounding vitality.
Today, Garland is 95. Like Stone, 94, he is remarkably healthy. According to a report in The Spokesman-Review, he is the last survivor of the 125 Pearl Harbor veterans who once lived in the vicinity of Spokane, Wash.
Stone picked up the ringing phone and was glad to hear Garland's voice. Stone mentioned how the doctor, at Stone's last checkup, predicted he would live to be 100.
Garland said his doctor told him the same thing.
They laughed, and then Garland spontaneously challenged Stone to a bet they both intend to keep:
If they live to be 100, they'll meet in 2023, at Pearl Harbor.
As Garland said, this is the rare bet that can have two winners.
Stone said yes. He didn't hesitate.
He plans on being there at 100, side-by-side with a friend who knows the place.
Sean Kirst is a columnist with The Buffalo News. Email him at email@example.com or read more of his work in this archive