John T. Cruise, who died Sunday, will be remembered for his valor in the U.S. Army during World War II and his decades of service to his fellow veterans in the Orangeburg area.
A native of rural Virginia, Cruise graduated from Virginia Tech and its ROTC program and immediately entered the Army as a second lieutenant. After training, he spent 1944 and 1945 with the troops fighting their way across France and Germany. He encountered the horrors of war — from seeing buddies being injured and killed, to visiting the Buchenwald concentration camp — and avoided speaking publicly about his war experiences until he was well into his 80s. But his medals — three Battle Stars, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart — spoke volumes about his heroism.
After completing his service in uniform, he began serving his fellow veterans.
“I met John when I joined the VFW post here,” Dr. John Rheney Jr. said. “When I started getting medical care at the VA in Columbia, he went up with me and took me around. He was a patriot and a good organizer. He did a great work for the veterans in Orangeburg County.”
Cruise never lost his sense of humor, even when various bureaucracies repeatedly declared him dead and cut off his retirement benefits over the years. Sadly, the life of this extraordinary man finally did come to an end Sunday. He was 90. Arrangements will be announced by Dukes-Harley Funeral Home.
“He was a fine man,” fellow Rotarian and Orangeburg Mayor Paul Miller said. “I had great respect for John. He will be missed.”