Local News

WWII vet turns 100 and reflects on historic mission

Posted May 28, 2018 6:12 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 11:14 a.m. EDT

— The Memorial Day holiday is very special to a central North Carolina World War II veteran who recently celebrated his 100th birthday.

Clay Wilson was honored with a birthday party that featured lavish dishes, grilled vegetables and cake. It was a party fit for a king and an American hero, although Wilson doesn't like being referred to as one.

"I don't feel like a hero," the centenarian said recently. "I was just doing what I'm supposed to do (by) trying to protect our country."

Wilson's nieces and nephews came from all over to Harnett County to wish a happy birthday to Wilson, a man who didn't think twice about putting his life on the line for this country.

"They announced that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor on a Sunday," said Chuck Daniel, Wilson's nephew. "Clay was at the office on Monday morning signing up."

During his time in the military, Wilson served as a gunner in a dozen missions until the day his plane was shot down.

"I bailed out," he said. "I jumped before the plane crashed so I had a good feeling knowing that I had been saved from the airplane."

Wilson evaded capture in enemy territory and made it back safely. He now keeps pieces of the plane wreckage as a memory of what happened and to remind him of what he overcame.

The military vet has been honored with a Purple Heart medal, which he keeps in a frame along with all the items that mean the most to him.

Wilson is a collector of things and people, but he says he never imagined he'd be doing it for 100 years.

"That's a long time," he said, adding that he has one hope for the next generation.

"I just want them to feel patriotic, and if necessary, go fight for their country like I did because there's no place like home," Wilson said. "The good ol' USA."