McCrabb: Butler County man enlisted in WWII when he was 16; served in three wars

Cecil Daily proudly wore a black baseball hat embroidered with “WWII, Korean, Vietnam Veteran” five years ago when he served as grand marshal of the Middletown Memorial Day Parade. Daily, 94, died Jan. 6. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Cecil Daily proudly wore a black baseball hat embroidered with “WWII, Korean, Vietnam Veteran” five years ago when he served as grand marshal of the Middletown Memorial Day Parade. Daily, 94, died Jan. 6. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

When Cecil Louis Daily, 94, affectionately called “Sarge Daily,” died Jan. 6 at Spring Hills Middletown Assisted Senior Living Facility, Butler County lost one of its most dedicated veterans.

“A good 94 years” is how one of his two daughters, Melanie White, described his life.

Consider Daily lied about his age when he was 16 so he could enlist with his older brother, then served during World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War in different branches of the military.

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He enlisted in 1943 as a Hamilton High School freshman and was discharged from the service as a 43-year-old man in 1970.

An autopsy would have showed “Sarge Daily” bled red, white and blue. Type USA blood.

“He was a lot of things to me,” said White, 57, her father’s caregiver for several years. “He was not just a guy who served in wars. That’s a hero to me. But he also was a kind and funny man who loved people.”

He also was a man with at least two lives.

“I feel I’m lucky that I’m still here,” he told me five years ago when he served as grand marshal of the Middletown Memorial Day Parade.

Daily, a Merchant Marine during WWII, was assigned to a cargo ship when it allegedly was sunk by an enemy torpedo. His parents Cecil and Dorothy Daily were told by U.S. military officials all servicemen aboard the ship were killed.

Daily came home to Hamilton and told his shocked parents the torpedo sailed under his ship, and sank a nearby vessel.

It wasn’t Daily’s day to die.

“I’ve had a good life. I can’t complain,” he said in 2017. “I love my country. If I could get up and hold a gun, I’d be right over there with them again.”

When he returned to Butler County after the military, he eventually earned his GED, his daughter said. He worked 26 years at Champion International in Hamilton and for a short time at Kroger.

He never stopped being a drill sergeant, his daughter said. He thought what worked in the military should work at home.

“He was pretty strict,” White said. “You always hard to follow the law.”

So you always obeyed your father, right?

“Not really,” she said with a laugh. “But I tried.”

Daily’s wife of 56 years, Melba, died seven years ago, and he buried a son and daughter, whom he adopted when he married.

He was supposed to have his funeral last week at Brown Dawson Flick Funeral Home in Hamilton, but many of his relatives tested positive for COVID-19. His funeral has been delayed at least one week.

For a guy who defied death, delaying his funeral seems appropriate.

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