Alvin Joyner, 23, of Madison, Wisconsin
Review and Herald, February 19, 1953
By Carlyle B. Haynes
It has been demonstrated again and again during the war years and since, that conscientious conviction against bearing arms is not rooted in cowardice. It may and often does, accompany the highest bravery.
To go undefended, without arms, where danger is greatest, and to go to save life and not take it, may require greater devotion and higher courage than to go there well armed.
The most recent example we have had of this is the experience of one of our Adventist men who took Medical Cadet training and was drafted into the Marine Corps. I can best give you his story by quoting from an article that appears on the front page of the Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan), written by Frederick C. Painton, a special correspondent of the United Press, with the First Marine Division in Korea.
Stirring Front-Page Story
Under date of Sunday, January 18,1953, and under a four-column headline, entitled “War Objector Decorated,” the Press story read:
“A husky young sailor told Saturday how he became the first conscientious objector of’ the Korean War to win a medal for heroism in combat.
“He saw his best friend killed in a Communist ambush. He does. not hate the enemy. He carries three pieces of shell fragments in his body, but he never tried to kill a man.
“In a quiet but positive way, Hospital Corpsman Alvin Joyner, 23, of Madison, Wisconsin, is a Seventh-day Adventist. His religion forbids violence.” But during two months at the front, Joyner has won three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star. He never carried a weapon.
” ‘It makes you old in a hurry,’ he said. ‘But when you think back it seems like a nightmare, not something that really happened.'” At the Battle of Bunker Hill Joyner was blinded temporarily under his first Communist artillery barrage.” ‘We had 31 men hit in the first half hour,’ he said. ‘1 couldn’t leave the guys lying there. There was a barrage coming in every five minutes. I was trying to get one man with his arm half blown off. Then in came another shell.’
“Joyner started to crawl to the wounded Marine, then ‘realized I couldn’t see.’
“He had been blinded by powder burns from the flash of the exploding shell.
“For the rest of the night, Joyner kept giving blood to the wounded, feeling his way with his hands. Finally his company commander ordered him back to the rear. “Joyner refused to go.
” ‘1 couldn’t have stayed back,’ he said. ‘The cries I heard-you just couldn’t if you had any conscience at all:
“Coming out of a bunker, Joyner stumbled and fell flat on his face. ‘Can’t you see?’ a sergeant asked him.
“‘I haven’t been able to see in some time,’ Joyner told him. Joyner was evacuated but after quick treatment was returned to his company, still with only blurred vision. “The first night back he was wounded again.
” ‘My eyes started bothering me again: he said. ‘Everything was beginning to catch up with me. The company commander personally conducted me to the battalion aid station.’
“They gave him a Bronze Star for Bunker Hill. He got the Silver Star for a combat patrol that ‘never had a chance:
“‘They spotted us before we ever got to the objective,’ he said, ‘and dropped in mortars. A little guy we all liked was hit. A man trying to carry him was hit, too.
“‘I ran to them and was giving this little guy some plasma when a mortar blew the plasma bottle out of my hand. He had enough in him to get over shock.’
“‘With both patrol leaders killed or wounded, it was Joyner who led the men back through a maze of mine fields to Allied lines, carrying ‘the little guy.’ “Joyner still says he does not deserve the Silver Star just ·for that.
“If he’s lucky he will go home soon, because he has three Purple Hearts for wounds.
“Even after a year in Korea he doesn’t smoke, drink, or swear.
” ‘I was pretty lucky in boot camp,’ he said. ‘They didn’t make me fire the weapons. Around here I don’t have to carry a weapon either… ‘I’m not trying to be different. It’s just the way I feel. I think you can be a conscientious objector and still be a good citizen.”’
Story Appears in Many Papers
The foregoing story also appeared in many other United Press newspapers. When news of the exploits of their son reached the parents of Alvin Joyner, who are Seventh-day Adventists, living in Madison, Wisconsin, and was publicized in the local newspapers, they received many letters of congratulation, including one from the pastor of the First Congregational church, Madison, Wisconsin, in which he said: “Let me be among the many who must rejoice with you in the possession of a son like Alvin Joyner, whose story of courageous medical service in Korea is related on the front page of Sunday’s ‘Wisconsin State Journal.
“Had the world more of this testimony it would be a much better place. “I rejoice in the religious impulse which bids him heal and help the wounded and broken, with no weapon at hand but faith and love.”
The religious press representative with the First Marine Division also wrote a story, saying in part:
“Mr. Joyner was injured with shrapnel and powder burns of the eyes while administering blood albumin to a comrade whose life was slowly ebbing away. Realizing the situation and its seriousness and disregarding his own safety; the young corpsman carried his patient to the nearest means of evacuation nearly a mile from their former position. “At the time this is sent to you of the Wisconsin Seventh-day Adventist Conference, I can say in happiness that this young Christian is nearly restored to original health.
“He still remains in Korea assisting the many wounded in the capacity of X-ray technician at ‘A’ medical company some four miles to the rear of the front battle lines.
“As a member of a Christian faith and also religious press reporter, I send this report with the belief that it will be welcome news to Mr. Joyner’s many friends there and elsewhere in the denomination. “I have personally become acquainted with the above gentleman and know that anything said in this statement is but small tribute to him.
“For his part in the story of Korea he has been awarded the Silver Star for bravery and courage above and beyond the call of duty.
“Remaining always an admirer of the Adventist men and their accomplishments in our service contacts,
“Martin P. Hoyle, T/Sgt. U.S.M.C.
ReI. Press Rep.
1st Marine Div. F.M.F.”
There were approximately twelve thousand Seventh-day Adventists in the military forces of the United States in World War II. Forty-five of these were awarded the Bronze Star Medal, six of whom also received Oak Leaf Clusters. Twelve were awarded the Silver Star Medal, two of whom also received Oak Leaf Clusters. One was awarded the Gold Star Medal. Six received Special Commendations. One received the Air Medal. Sixteen were awarded Presidential Citations. Three received Meritorious Service Plaques. Three were given Legion of Merit Awards. One received a Certificate of Merit. Five were given the Soldier’s Medal. One was awarded the Croix de Guerre. And one received the highest award within the gift of the nation, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
These were not all who performed deeds of valor and heroism at posts of danger. But these are enough to disclose that noncombatancy is not destructive of the highest courage and devotion.
A student leader at Broadview Academy. LUH 19461008, p5
President of the freshman class at Emmanuel Missionary College. LUH19480601, p8