L. Tom Perry


(This is an excerpt from the biography L. Tom Perry, An Uncommon Life by L. Tom Perry.)

Until he received his orders to report for military service, Tom wanted to stay busy. Ted had worked at the grocery store on Main Street in Logan until he joined the navy, and when the owner heard that Tom had returned home from his mission, he quickly hired him. As soon as he hired Tom, the owner became seriously ill. After only a few days of training, Tom was asked to take over the operations of the store. He and the butcher then ran it until the owner recovered. This was Tom’s first retail experience, and he discovered he had a natural gift for operating the store. It was the first time he entertained the idea that he would pursue something else instead of banking as a career.

Wendell Tolman, Tom’s former missionary companion who had been released only three weeks before he had, was in the same awkward situation of being at home waiting for Uncle Sam to call. He decided to travel down from Idaho and visit Tom for a few days. The two former companions went on several double dates together during Wendell’s visit.

Wendell and Tom also reminded each other of the commitment they had made while serving together as missionaries to join the navy upon being drafted. They knew the odds were small, but they still hoped that if they joined the same branch of the service at approximately the same time, they might have an opportunity to serve together. Asking for the blessing of serving another mission together was something they both had made a subject of prayer.

The interim between Tom’s two missions proved to be only six weeks. He received his draft notice to report to Fort Douglas, Utah, at the end of February 1944.

Tom arrived at Fort Douglas with every intention of volunteering for the navy until he saw some men dressed in navy uniforms. In a rare moment of vanity, he imagined himself, with his long legs, wearing a uniform with bell-bottomed trousers. When a marine recruiter walked into the room and stood before the recruits, Tom could not help but be impressed by his sharp uniform. Suddenly, he was waffling on his commitment to Wendell Tolman. The recruiter asked for seven volunteers to join the U.S. Marine Corps, and Tom was the first to step forward.1 Tom was placed in charge of the six other recruits, but they were all granted liberty for the night. They were ordered to be on a train the next morning bound for California to report for basic training at the San Diego Marine Corps Base. Tom arranged to spend his last night as a civilian with his former missionary companion Ray Davis, who was from Salt Lake City.

Ray set Tom up with a date, Maxine Moulton, and they went to a dance together. Tom and Maxine had such a good time that evening that they faithfully corresponded for the next two and a half years.

Tom felt rather important leading the small unit of recruits as they rode the train to San Diego. His sense of self-importance, however, lasted only until the seven men reported to a marine sergeant at the base. The sergeant asked who was in charge, and Tom stepped forward and handed him their papers.

The sergeant took the papers and then gruffly told Tom to step back in line with the other recruits. The seven men, still in civilian clothes, were led to a room where everything they had brought with them was taken from them and placed in a sack to be mailed home. Then the recruits were issued their uniforms and everything else they needed. It mattered little who they were or what they had done before. They had a new identity now. They were United States Marines...

On his first Sunday at the base, Tom attended church, and among the many new faces he saw was a familiar face—that of Wendell Tolman. The two avowed navy recruits had both decided to join the marines. They had seen each other only weeks earlier, but it was a joyous reunion. They appeared destined to serve another mission together. Tom and Wendell belonged to different platoons, but their paths crossed often—in the mess hall, on the rifle range, and, of course, every Sunday at church.


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