PORTAGE, Mich. – Arno Yurk is a 93-year-old Navy veteran who’s seen his share of battles, both on the battlefield and in his life after World War II. He lost his wife 20 years ago, beaten cancer, and is now on dialysis for his failing kidneys.
But no matter what fight he’s in, he has always taken on all of life’s challenges with an optimistic smile.
"I’ve had some setbacks lately but I’m starting to recover," Yurk said. "The secret I guess is faith...I have great faith."
Yurk joined the Navy at the age of 18 in 1943. He says the attack at Pearl Harbor prompted him into enlisting. He was a 3rd class gunner's mate aboard the USS Inch, where he says he spent of his time going after German submarines.
"The planes would go out from the carrier they would spot submarines under the surface, because at that time they had to come up to charge their batteries," Yurk said. "They would signal us we were sent out with destroyer escorts to go after them."
When the war ended in 1945, he married his long time sweet heart Marjorie. Together, they raised 6 children and had 27 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.
Yurk says his kidneys failed him on a beach in Florida. He was given a choice between taking dialysis or not, and says he was against it at first until a pastor came to visit him in the hospital. He was convinced to start treatment with Fresenius Kidney Care about 7 years ago so he can be around his family for as long as possible.
"I’ve been through a lot I’ve been through cancer, I’ve been through stroke I’ve had amputations I’ve had broken vertebrae, broken leg, broken arm you name it I’ve had it," Yurk said. "I still do my own washing, I make my own meals. I’m a little restricted now because I had a setback...but I’m recovering from that now but I still go to dialysis."
He was honored last year during an honor flight to Washington D.C. with fellow WWII veterans.
He may not be the spring chicken he was when he first joined the Navy, but Yurk says he doesn’t let his age or anything else slow him down.
The Talons Out: Honor Flight out of West Michigan continues to have honor flights for Veterans.