By Dave Rogers

For The Record

Orange’s Eugene Goudeau dodged direct hits when it counted most but the old “tin can” sailor was broadsided last week in Baton Rouge.

He met Garrett Lynch, a Port Arthur native, during a tour of the USS Kidd, a Navy destroyer turned into a museum, and it turns out they have a lot in common.

Like having served in the Navy at the same time in World War II and having fought in the same sea battles.

“I don’t get to meet guys like that very often,” Goudeau told a friend. “There aren’t many of us left.”

There aren’t many World War II vets remaining alive, only about 600,000 or so of the 16 million Americans who served in the military from 1941-45.

In observance of Memorial Day, Americans will pause during weekend ceremonies to remember the people who died while serving in the armed forces.

At 93 and recently widowed, Goudeau is no stranger to watching the world he grew up in go away, family members, the people he worked with at DuPont and the people he served in the Navy with all those many years ago.

But these days he fills his time, when not puttering around his house, on geneology searches and offering living history lessons.

That’s what took him to Baton Rouge, where the USS Kidd is a Fletcher class destroyer, just like the USS Dyson, on which Goudeau served from 1943-1945.

He was showing a friend the cramped gun turret like the one in which he and five other crewmen operated a 5-inch gun for hours at a time when he bumped into Lynch, a 50-year Baton Rouge resident who volunteers as a guide on the Kidd.

After Goudeau mentioned he’d been on the Dyson, Lynch, who served on the USS O’Brien, told him he’d watched from his ship as the Dyson and other members of its “Little Beaver” squadron fought a fiery night battle against the Japanese known as the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay.”

The two men soon retired to the chief’s mess on the ship to swap stories.

Lynch dropped out of Thomas Jefferson High in Port Arthur to join the Navy and after the war, at 21, he returned to finish his senior year.

He said that’s where he met his wife, Beverly Rushing, and the two were married 62 years before she passed away. An electrician at the Texaco refinery, he transferred to the company’s new Baton Rouge refinery in 1966.

Goudeau and Lynch recharged their memory banks for much of the early afternoon. Then, Lynch said, it was time for “Liberty,” meaning his Thursday volunteer shift was over.

But these two sailors stay busy and fight off Father Time as another Memorial Day passes.