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Veteran of three wars celebrates 93rd birthday

By MATT DEYOUNG | Grand Haven Tribune, Mich. | Published: February 27, 2021

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (Tribune News Service) — At 17 years old, Robert "Top" Vermurlen was a Marine, training for the invasion of Japan.

The Grand Haven native never got the chance — the war ended before he was deployed overseas.

Still, Vermurlen saw plenty of action in the years to come — he's a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Earlier this week, Vermurlen and several of his friends gathered at the Grand Haven VFW Post to celebrate Robert's 93rd birthday.

"I went in when World War II was going, and we were training to invade Japan when Truman dropped the big one," Vermurlen said.

Vermurlen married his wife, Marion, 53 years ago in Hawaii. After his military career, he worked for the U.S. Postal Service in Grand Haven for 15 years before retiring.

"I've been here in Grand Haven ever since," he said. "We winter in Arizona and Florida, but we didn't go this year — getting too old."

Robert and Marion live at the Village at the Pines in Grand Haven.

He wasn't excited to have a birthday party thrown in his honor — "I told them I didn't want any of this," he said between swigs of beer. "I like Grand Haven, and I like the VFW. I was past commander of the American Legion in 1972 and '73, then I was adjutant of the Memorial Day Association for many years. My wife was president of the Legion Auxiliary for a year. We did our share."

After a chorus of "Happy Birthday," the other former Marines in attendance joined "Top" in singing the United States Marine Corps Hymn.

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