At Wreaths Across America, we remember our fallen heroes, honor those who serve and their families, and teach younger generations the value of freedom.  Veterans Day is acknowledged as a national holiday every November 11th since 1938. Wreaths Across America keeps veterans and their service to our nation near and dear to our hearts every day.

One of those individuals we cherish and respect is 92-year-old Charles Phinney of Milbridge, Maine a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. He's a humble man who welcomes you into his home with a twinkle in his eye and warm, hearty laugh. He admits if you're a lady you'll get a big hug too.

Like so many veterans who have fought the enemy to liberate others from oppression and protect our freedom, Charles Phinney tucked the memories of what he did and endured during war deep inside himself and moved on to raise and provide for a family.

Wreaths Across America was honored earlier this year when Charles, his wife Madelyn and grandchildren Charemon and Rick Davis shared the story of his service, his commendations, and his opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. with Honor Flight of Maine.

In 1943, Charles knew when he reached his 18th birthday he'd be drafted into World War II, so he decided to enlist a few days before. His MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) out of basic training was searchlights. He and a buddy were ready to sign up to be paratroopers, but they had already been assigned to the 405th Regiment of the 102 Infantry Division also known as the Ozark Division and were sent to Germany.

The Ozark Division suffered heavy casualties enduring 173 days of constant contact with the enemy.

"We were replacements," explained Charles. "My best friend Luke Moore and I went over together. He was a First scout, and I was a Second scout. We were taking a town when we were shot at by a sniper up in a church. We had grenades on our hip belts, and the sniper hit a grenade, and it killed my buddy."

Despite the shock of seeing his friend blown apart on the battlefield, there was no time to process what he had just witnessed let alone to grieve. Charles managed to crawl over to a tank gunner to identify the location of the sniper. "They swung around, and with just one shot the top of the church came off."

Troops had to keep moving forward, and before long they were pinned down again by a German soldier with a machine gun. "I managed to get to where he was, and we had a little discussion. I came out on top, and that was the end of that. It's just something you had to do."

Among the many emblems for his gallantry, Charles has the Silver Star, the military's third highest personal decoration for valor in combat. The one he's most proud of however is his Combat Infantry Badge. He also received several others he didn't know he'd earned until his grandchildren tirelessly researched his service record. Those medals now hang in Charles' home.

It wasn't until Charles was called back into service in the Korean War that he got to use his skills setting up searchlights. "They'd be shooting at us a night, and we'd snap the lights on and there they were lined up like clay pigeons," Charles recalled with a chuckle. "That only lasted for about two months before they got some artillery in there. I had set my light up one night, and a shell came over, and all I had left were some cables. They knocked out so many lights after a while we couldn't use them anymore. Then they sent me back home."

Charles says his Honor Flight trip to Washington D.C. to see the war memorials was one he'll never forget.

"We had five police escorts for our bus on the way in and it was quite interesting to see how one motorcycle cop would go ahead and hold the traffic at an intersection while we went through," Charles explained. "There were a couple of hundred school children at the World War II monument, and we were shaking their hands. That was quite something. I think the highlight of the trip though was when we were taken to Arlington to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier."

To top off his excitement, there was another surprise in store for Charles. The family arranged for a surprise visit to the hotel by two of his grandsons who live in the Virgina area.

As we approach Veterans Day 2017, Wreaths Across America wishes to express our sincere gratitude to Mr. Charles Phinney and all those who have stepped up for uniformed service to our nation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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