This football star left his final game at halftime to go to war. He’s one of 10 NC service members we remember. | News & Observer

On the day Bobby Crocker went to war, he was just 18, a star fullback at Raleigh High School — a player so dominant that in his last game he ran for two touchdowns and passed in a third.

But on his last day in Raleigh — Oct. 2, 1943 — he couldn’t suit up. He had been drafted into the Marines, and his train left at halftime. So he sat in the stands, watching his teammates play a game they dedicated to him.

When Crocker stood to go, he boarded a train at Seaboard Station, its platform so close that fans could watch him all the way, standing in silence.

"If the stocky youngster fights as hard as a Marine as he played football," The News & Observer raved, "he will continue to make headlines."

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He did.

Bobby Crocker shown as a fullback for Raleigh High School before dying in World War II

Courtesy of Susan Crocker

Crocker died nine months later after being wounded on a transport near the Marshall Islands. In a letter home to his parents, typed by a friend three days before his death, Crocker described his injury as a "slight mishap" and asked if his brother Bill was still fooling with the girls.

"I notice in the last picture from him, he was sporting a new zoot suit," wrote the teen. "Is Betty still as pretty as she was when I left? … I believe if we can get rid of Germany in the next few months, I will probably be eating turkey with you next Christmas."

This Memorial Day, we highlight the lives of 10 service members from the Triangle: soldiers and Marines who fell in wars Americans fought with Germans, Japanese, Vietnamese, Iraqis and each other.

Their conflicts span a century and their battlegrounds circle the globe. Some died suddenly and young. Some carried scars into old age. And like Crocker, who rests in Raleigh’s Oakwood Cemetery, they share a fight to be remembered.

Lori Anne Privette

At 5-foot-1, Lori Anne Privette almost looked too short to be a Marine. Friends sometimes teased about her uniform, in which she could pass for a kid playing dress-up.

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Staff Sgt. Lori A. Privette, a Marine, died in a training accident in 2004 when a Huey helicopter crashed in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Courtesy of Dawn Privette

But as a staff sergeant, Privette regularly trained Marines who stood a foot taller, dressing them down with authority that made nobody snicker.

She joined the military right out of Smithfield-Selma High School, and as a Marine, she served on 130 missions in Iraq — 30 of them under fire. Then in 2004, on a training mission outside Camp Pendleton in California, her helicopter flew into a power line and crashed in a canyon. Privette died just short of her 28th birthday.

Back home in Johnston County, her family started a small garden in her memory, asking for bulbs and seeds rather than cut flowers for a funeral. So many donations arrived from around the world that the blooms covered half a football field. More than 120 people came to help plant them.

Grave Location: Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego; memorial tablet in Oakwood Cemetery, 701 Oakwood Ave., Raleigh.

Jesse Broyles served in the Marines during World War II. From 1963 to 1981, Broyles became known as the Peanut Man, selling peanuts on Capitol Square as flocks of pigeons flew near him.

1968 News & Observer File Photo

Jesse Broyles

Whatever happened to Jesse Broyles on Iwo Jima, he spoke very little about it. After his stint in the Marines during World War II, Broyles hardly talked to anyone, retreating into decades of solitude.

When he finally emerged after years of nightmares, Broyles was nearing old age, and he took on a new identity at the State Capitol that any gray-haired Raleigh native will remember: The Peanut Man, friend to the pigeons.

From 1963 to 1981, Broyles sold peanuts on Capitol Square as flocks of urban birds perched on his shoulders. He sat through rain and sleet without complaint. "I used to be a Marine," he reminded people.

Broyles named his feathered companions downtown. Speck, for instance. And he noted that the legislators darting around the Capitol never tossed a nut to a pigeon, eating the whole bag for themselves.

Broyles lived to be 104, dying in 2003 — six decades after he left the battlefield. He found peace on a park bench and kinship among creatures nobody bothers to love.

Grave location: Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh

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Past Times: Memories of the Peanut Man in Raleigh

Vernon Haywood, a Tuskegee Airman during World War II, became one of the first African-Americans to fly jet aircraft.

Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Ariz.

Vernon Haywood

As a boy in Southeast Raleigh, Vernon Haywood once stared at a blimp flying over his house, deciding that it looked like a lit-up sausage with windows.

Flight so fascinated him from that day on that he regularly walked 7 miles to the Fayetteville Street air strip just to watch the planes refuel.

As a Tuskegee Airman, he flew 70 combat missions over Europe in World War II, protecting B-17 bombers and never losing one of them to enemy fire. He served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, always fighting racial barriers that considered blacks unfit to fly.

By the time he retired with a chest full of medals, speaking to high school students in Raleigh with silver hair and hearing loss, he was often asked how his life as a Tuskegee Airman compared to the 1995 TV movie version starring Laurence Fishburne and Cuba Gooding Jr. In 1943, would anyone mistake him for Fishburne?

"It was pretty close," he explained. "But they had to jazz it up a little bit."

When he died in 2003 at 82, the boy from segregated Walnut Terrace ranked as one of the most celebrated fighter pilots in history.

Grave location: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va.

Civil War history buff Charles Purser, photographed in 2007, shows a headstone where a Union soldier is buried, even though the marker indicates a confederate soldier, John O. Dobson is there. The actual person is John O. Dolson, and his monument has been replaced.

Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com

John Dolson

In 1863, a Minnesota farm boy named John O. Dolson took a bullet at Gettysburg and died slowly in a military hospital, perishing to the sounds of screams.

As a last indignity, officials there recorded his death with a string of errors, misspelling his name, mistaking his unit and sending him to Raleigh as John O. Dobson – a Yankee buried in a Confederate cemetery.

More than a century passed before Charles Purser, a history sleuth, discovered the mistake through burial records and muster rolls, finally learning the story of the young man buried far from home. He arranged for Dolson’s proper burial, where his name was finally spoken aloud.

Today, Dolson’s grave has a rounded top rather than the pointed variety given Confederates. It stands out in a field of white stones, made special by its solitude.

Grave location: Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh

Myrtle Mills Hilton, stenographer for the OSS, and Japanese Gen. Hideki Tojo. Hilton recorded his war crimes trial after World War II.

N.C. Archives

Myrtle Mills Hilton

Myrtle Mills Hilton carried a notepad, not a gun. But as a stenographer for the OSS, the spy agency that preceded the CIA, she scribbled down notes to some of history’s most terrible chapters, rubbing shoulders with the era’s most infamous characters.

She was born to a prominent Raleigh family and graduated from the school that became William Peace University. She traveled to Germany for the Nuremberg trials, helping to prosecute former Nazis. Shortly afterward, she followed the war to Japan, taking notes on the trial of Hideki Tojo for his role in planning the Pearl Harbor attacks.

She grew famously close with the Japanese general, bringing him candy bars from the Army PX. Decades later Tojo was hung for war crimes and Hilton’s friends in Raleigh still called her the "candy lady."

Grave location: Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh

Marine Staff Sgt. Curtis Baggett won the Navy Cross, posthumously, for service in Vietnam.

Curtis Baggett

As a 31-year-old staff sergeant, Curtis Baggett led his men into machine gun, mortar and rocket fire carrying only a .45-caliber pistol.

In 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, his Marine unit stood outnumbered in the village of Phong Luc. Using his pistol, the Raleigh native managed to overrun the enemy position and capture one of the machine guns. As his men kept inside a tree line with the confiscated machine gun, Baggett moved to the rear of an enemy trench, exposed and vulnerable until a rocket hit him in the chest.

His name appears on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., and on tribute sites from men who served with him, describing him as a great guy. After his death on Feb. 6, 1968, he won the Navy Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor.

Grave location: Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh

A 1940s photo of Hubert Poole at Montford Point, a segregated training base that operated outside Camp Lejeune.

Courtesy of Poole Family

Hubert Poole

Hubert Poole could never be sure if the harshness of his training stemmed from being black in 1943 or just Semper Fi toughness.

But at Montford Point, the segregated training ground outside Camp Lejeune, he grew into a better version of himself.

"It taught me that you’re not going to have things the way you want them all the time," he told the N&O in 2003. "You have to improvise, do hard thinking and pray."

As one of the first black Marines, Poole held no bitterness in his heart, even though he wasn’t allowed to fight at Guadalcanal or Guam in World War II and could only load ammunition, and who returned to Raleigh in uniform to be sent to the back doors of restaurants.

He became a notoriously tough social studies teacher and a must-get endorsement in Democratic Party politics. As the world changed around him, he kept improvising, thinking hard and praying — always a Marine.

Grave location: Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh

William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison, unrelated to the ninth U.S. president, fought in both the Mexican and Civil wars. But his most memorable act came while serving as Raleigh’s mayor in 1865, when he helped save the city from destruction.

With Gen. William T. Sherman’s army at the edge of the city, and with other Southern cities in ruin, Harrison had hoped that the Capitol would be spared. He rode out in the pouring rain to meet the federals, surrendering on the condition that Raleigh’s residents and property be protected.

No warm feelings awaited. A Confederate lieutenant from Texas took a shot at an advancing Union general, and he was quickly hanged. But Harrison helped guarantee Raleigh would not suffer the fate of Columbia, S.C., its ransacked neighbor to the south.

Grave location: Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh

Everitt Briggs died as a prisoner in Burma during World War II. A plane carrying his remains crashed and has never been found.

Everitt Briggs Jr.

In Oakwoood Cemetery, Everitt Briggs Jr. has the unfortunate nickname as "The Man Who Died Twice."

Briggs, a football player and Sigma Nu fraternity brother at UNC-Chapel Hill, volunteered for the Army Air Force on the day after Pearl Harbor. His service took him to India, where he flew a P-51 fighter over Burma and got shot down in 1943.

Briggs died in Rangoon, still a POW. Then, once the war had ended, a plane crashed while bringing back his remains, its location still uncertain.

After seven decades, Briggs waits to come home.

Grave location: Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh

The Tar Heel Detachment 733 of the Marine Corps League Department of North Carolina hosted a wreath-laying ceremony Memorial Day morning to honor all veterans at the War Memorial on the north lawn of the State Capitol. Travis Longtlong@newsobserver.com

Josh Shaffer: 919-829-4818, @joshshaffer08

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