World War II veteran Charlie Coker was one of many WWII veterans recently chosen to visit the nation’s capitol for free in honor of fighting for our country during WWII. Thanks to Honor Flight Tennessee Valley, he was chosen to represent Mississippi, along with veterans from the other fifty states in a one-day trip to Washington, D. C. to visit the monuments and memorials dedicated to WWII veterans. The trip was on August 29, 2009.
Honor Flight Tennessee Valley supplied all of the meals, the chartered plane flight and chartered bus in D. C. and the tours of some of the monuments and memorials. These veterans were chosen because they had not had the opportunity yet to visit monuments or memorials that was specifically created in their honor, especially the National WWII Memorial.
“I never really thought that WWII veterans got the honor and respect we deserved for fighting for our country years ago, but after this trip, I have changed my mind. We were all treated like royalty and made to feel real special,” Coker said.
Coker added, “When we arrived in D. C., we had a great welcome and people were waving the American flag, saying hello, and held up a lot of “Thank You” signs. The city police and fire trucks escorted our buses into the city on our way to the monuments and memorials. I had one lady that came up and hugged my neck and told me thank you for fighting or our country. Her husband had been killed years ago in war and was very thankful for veterans.”
Coker fought in the Asiatic Pacific Campaign between the years of 1941 and 1945 and saw many places in the U.S. and around the world, including Fort Knox, Ky., Fort Campbell, Ky., Pearl Harbor, Leyte in the Phillipine Islands, Marshall Islands, Salinas, Calif., Monterey Bay, Calif., New Guinea, Sydney, Australia, and many more places.
He served in the 20th Army division serving in the A company 718 Amphibious Tractor Battalion. He was a driver of an amphibious tractor. Before he was drafted by the U.S. Army, he worked as a welder in Brunswick, Ga. with his wife Mary Frances Sappington, whom he married in March 1941.
Throughout his years of fighting, Coker received many injuries, including being hit with shrapnel in his leg and his forehead, being shot in the leg, and many more injuries, including developing jungle rot in his left arm and hand.
Coker was one of 130 WWII veterans were chosen for this trip.
The first Honor Flight Tennessee Valley was held in the fall of 2006 and the first flight was in April 2007 flying a total of fourteen WWII veterans to Washington, D. C. Since that time, more than 625 WWII veterans have been flown to the nation’s capitol to visit the memorials.
Coker and the other WWII veterans were able to visit the WWII Memorial, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Korean War Veterans Memorial, The Marine Corps War Memorial, and the National Women’s History Museum and was even able to meet former Senator Bob Dole, the national chairman for the National WWII Memorial.
The National WWII Memorial honors the 16 million Americans who fought in the war, the approximate 400,000 that died, and countless other people that supported the war effort from home.
He was honorably discharged at Camp Shelby, Mississippi in 1945. He received two purple hearts and took home the dog tag from the Japanese man who shot him.
“I felt very honored and special and was very glad to have seen the National WWII Memorial and the other places in D.C.,” said Coker.