INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- At 92 years old, Hoosier veteran Stan Ashley is still picking and grinning. The self-taught musician still plays guitar in the carport of his home in Muncie.
“I can’t imagine a world without music,” said Ashley.
But there was another sound in his life when he was a younger man: the sound of war. Ashley served as a sailor aboard the USS Indiana battleship. He worked below deck handling ordinance. The delivered the 50 pound projectiles the mighty ship fired from its big guns.
"When we were in battle, all I did was pass the ammunition," said Ashley.
He sailed with the Indiana throughout the war in places like Okinawa in the South Pacific. While he was on board, the ship survived near misses from Japanese torpedoes more than once.
"I don't remember being scared. Being on that ship is almost like being on a city, " said Ashley. "We were at sea one time 62 days, didn't see no land. You begin to wonder if there was any land on this earth."
After the war, he returned to his home in Tennessee. He ended up in Muncie looking for work. For him, his ship’s namesake represented opportunity.
"I was never one to sit back and wait for a hand out. I wanted to be self-supporting, that's the main reason I came to Indiana," said Ashley.
He worked in manufacturing plants and raised a family. But soon, Ashley will be back on a vessel named “Indiana.” He and several of his surviving shipmates will travel to Florida this month for the commissioning of the next USS Indiana, a fast-attack submarine will carry on the Indiana’s tradition.
"I hope they'll welcome me," said Ashley. "I'd like to go aboard and see what it's like."
Ashley and his wife still play and sing at nursing homes around Muncie. He’s active, healthy and humble about his service both on the Indiana and in the state where he made a life.
"I thank God every day for the gift that he gave me," he said.