Family, veterans say goodbye to Iwo Jima Marine
Nevada News Group
Gardnerville resident Bayne Stevens was remembered as a war hero, educator and family man who made a difference in people’s lives, whether he was fighting on Iwo Jima 75 years ago or being a loving husband in a marriage that lasted seven decades.
A memorial service for Stevens, who died on March 21 at the age of 98, was conducted June 19 at Eastside Memorial Park complete with a three-volley salute from the American Legion Post 56 honor guard and interment next to his wife Frances, who died in 2018. Marine Corps League Silver State Detachment 630 in Carson City conducted the service, and the Douglas County Mounted Posse remained in the background.
Speaking on behalf of the family, granddaughter Jenna Jenkins reminisced of her childhood and her grandparents’ love and support from them teaching her how to drive to learning how to bake, helping the less fortunate and taking creativity to its fullest.
“If not for them, I would not be who I am today,” she said.
Jenkins said her grandparents loved their family and friends than anything in the world but most of all, when said they loved each other.
“My grandfather was a selfless, humble and simple man who taught me to do the right thing even when no one was watching,” Jenkins said.
She said Stevens was a both war hero who never sought recognition and a role model to everyone who met him.
Family friend Mike Schiller presented a background of Stevens’ life during both World War II and afterward. Stevens, who grew up in Michigan, enlisted in the Marines in July 1942 and completed his basic training at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and his schooling in ordnance disposal at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Meanwhile, Frances Green, who grew up in Texas and attended Texas Tech University, relocated to Los Angeles to work as an accountant for Santa Fe Railroad. When Stevens, who played baseball and football and boxed in high school, returned to Camp Pendleton, received a weekend pass, he would head to Los Angeles where he met Frances. From their first meeting, their love blossomed.
“It was a true love affair,” Schiller said. “But marriage plans were put on hold until after the war.”
Stevens and his unit, the 4th Marine Division, headed to the Pacific theater in February 1944 to capture strategic islands needed for the war effort against Japan. Saipan, Tinium and Iwo Jima – each battle to wrestle an island from enemy control became a test of fortitude and heroism for the Marines. Schiller said Stevens job was to clear out the bombs, grenades and booby traps, which became the young Marine’s specialty.
After Iwo Jima fell in April 1945, the 4th Marine Division returned to the United States via Maui, their home station, and in November, the division deactivated. At the same time, Stevens was discharged from military duty having earned numerous awards including the Bronze Star.
Stevens and Green exchanged wedding vows the following month.
Schiller said his friend attended Michigan State University and earned an education degree. They returned to Southern California where he became a teacher, coach and counselor for the Los Angeles Unified School District, and she had a long, successful career in accounting. After they retired, they relocated to Nevada in 1989.
Adam Wygnanski, a board member with Honor Flight Nevada, talked of his friendship with Stevens that began two years ago when both men were on a flight to Washington, D.C., to see the memorials constructed to honor the nation’s wars and heroes.
“He had an opportunity to place the Honor Flight wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington Cemetery,” Wygnanski said, adding Stevens spoke highly of the once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Earlier this year on the Honor Flight Nevada trip to Pearl Harbor, Wygnanski said Stevens had the time of his life and shared his experiences. Wygnanski said the World War II veteran enjoyed the sunsets, walks on the piers and the visits to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, the battleship USS Missouri and the USS Arizona Memorial.
“I was glad to be there for him,” Wygnanski added.
Wygnanski said Stevens was treated with the dignity and respect that he deserved and earned.
Stevens and his fellow veterans on the flight visited Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay, the first installation bombed during the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941. Once on the installation, Stevens’ pride as a Marines showed.
“He was greeted on the bus by a young, sharp Marine sergeant who presented him a challenge coin from the base,” Wygnanski said.
Accompanied by active-duty Marines assigned to Kaneohe Bay, the veterans walked first to a memorial honoring sailors who died on Dec. 7 and then to a replica memorial a memorial similar to one in Washington, D.C. that shows Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima.
“He pointed to it and said he was there,” Wygnanski recalled. “He was about a football field away when those boys raised the flag on Mount Suribachi.”
Wygnanski said Stevens fought valiantly and also dismantled many explosive devices without fear and hesitation.
When he spoke about his friend, Gardnerville Ranchos resident Ted Henson, a Navy veteran who served on submarines, illustrated Stevens’ dedication as an ordnanceman. When a grader was plowing the runaway on one of the captured islands, Henson said Stevens sat on the blade watching for any unexploded bombs
“He could see what mines would pop up,” Henson added.
In one of his previous conversations with Henson, Stevens kidded Henson he was crazy to serve on a submarine, but the Navy vet responded. He told Stevens he was crazy to island hop from one major battle to another.
Derek Clark of Minden saw Stevens on a regular basis when he was at The Chateau at Gardnerville, an assisted living facility. He regrets meeting the Marine hero late in his life.
“He was like an uncle,” Clark said. “We got to know each other.”
Clark, whose father was a career Marine, took Stevens to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball not too long ago that was put by the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center near Bridgeport, Calif.
“One of the best parts about that — we had him sitting there at one of the tables, and this speaks very highly of Marines and their traditions,” Clark explained.” At one point, between 50 to 75 young Marines lined up to shake his hand, one after another. He talked to every one of them and had his picture taken with more than half of them.”