VERMILLION (KSNT) – For Loyal Shirley, the farming lifestyle he grew up with set him apart from his fellow soldiers. The Kansan joined the Marine Corps following a monumental shift of the tide during World War II.

Shirley enlisted the day he graduated high school. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, his senses of duty and patriotism called him to serve his country. Now, nearly 80 years later, his biggest takeaway was how intense the sergeants were during his Marine Corps training.

“Of course the war was on and stuff. They wanted to toughen you up in a hurry,” Shirley said. “They did a pretty good job of that. They made your life as miserable as they could make it.”  

Still, the tough love approach didn’t phase Shirley.

“It didn’t bother me that much, I was an old country boy and had done work,” Shirley said. “A lot of them city boys, the hardest thing they’ve done is ride a bicycle. They couldn’t take that very good.” 

His experience paid off several times throughout his training. He was even awarded a medal for expert marksmanship at Parris Island.

“I was a good shot anyway,” Shirley said. “Of course that thing was a lot more high powered than you were used to. That thing kicked and by the time it was over everybody had a black eye.”

While Shirley was still in training, an American bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb on Japan. It was an act that not only changed the trajectory of the war, but also the role that Shirley would fill.

“If you could type they stuck you in an office job, so I ended up working in an office,” Shirley said. 

After Shirley finished his time with the Marines, he went on to return stateside to serve in the reserves for an additional three years. Today, he still lives on the Marshall County homestead he’s owned since the mid 1960’s. This marks his 76th year of farming the land.