World War II vet gets honorary wings in Madison County after more than 70 years

Charles Henry never got the chance to become a paratrooper and on Thursday, he got his wings.

Posted: Nov 7, 2019 6:21 PM
Updated: Nov 8, 2019 8:32 AM

Faculty, staff and students witnessed firsthand the surprise of a lifetime after a World War II veteran received his wings.

Charles Henry said this honor is not just for him, but for his brothers as well.

"To be here and to be able to honor those who sacrificed their lives for us, for me also," said Henry.

Henry and several other veterans gathered at Monrovia Middle School for a breakfast to thank them for their service.

What they didn't know was they would also see an honor 70 years in the making.

Henry was denied the opportunity to be a paratrooper in World War II because of the color of his skin. He didn't jump out of a plane but helped guard prisoners of war, and for Henry, it was enough to know he helped his country.

"It's a pleasure. I feel honored just to be among this group and these fellow soldiers and fellow vets," said Henry.

On Thursday, students at Monrovia Middle School said it's something they'll always remember.

"Some of them are in their hundreds, and because they've been through so much, and it's inspiring and we can look up to them and learn so much from them," said Lily Wilson, a Monrovia Middle School student.

Command Sergeant Major Billy Counts said to be able to give Henry this honor meant a lot to him, and he knows how dangerous and deadly it was during the war.

"One in 10 paratroopers survived in World War II, one in 10," said Command Sgt. Major Billy Counts, who's the Garrison Command Sgt. Major.

The Forever Young Veterans are looking into how to get Henry the jump of his life. When they asked him, would he be willing, he said a very happy yes.

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