Marines befriend local World War II veteran

Earl Culmer earned Purple Heart, Bronze Star during service

HOUSTON – It was March 1945 when the battle of Iwo Jima ended. A little while later, a young Earl Culmer returned home to Houston with all of his medals.

"When I got back after the war I thought, ‘Nobody really cares,' so I never did anything with them but put them in the box," Culmer told Channel 2.

They sat there for 70 years until some Houston police officers made a routine call to Culmer's house. One noticed Marine memorabilia and spread the word around the department that a World War II veteran lived in their jurisdiction.

A fellow Marine, Officer Jimmy Conley went by Culmer's house to say hello and a friendship began.

"Simply because he's a Marine, I decided to come over and talk to him," Conley said. "He was in one of the most important battles in World War II. He was on Iwo Jima and that's a big deal in Marine Corps history."

Conley and three of his longtime friends in the police force all served in the Marines. Each one -- Kenneth Elliot, Jake Simmerman and Eric May -- eventually went with Conley to meet the World War II veteran.

"He essentially paved the way for younger Marines," May said.

"We talked about their war, my war, differences, this, that and the other," Culmer said. "Although they were worlds apart, the same kind of camaraderie kind of comes in there. You just felt like, ‘I'm talking again to somebody that understands what I'm talking about.'"

After inquiring about Culmer's medals, they found he was keeping a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star in a cardboard box in a hall closet.

The officers decided to buy him a shadow box.

"After 70 years, well, it was up on the wall," Culmer said.

Culmer said the way they cared for him filled a void in his heart that had slowly diminished over time. The officers said they have had the most fun taking Culmer to a World War II Memorial Service and they plan to continue visiting a couple times a month.

"It gives us a camaraderie that a lot of people will never have," Culmer said. "It's actually changed my life a little bit and made it a little bit better."