FERRIER FILES: 97-year-old WWII vet tells stories of war, life

(Fox 17 News)

They are the greatest men who fought the greatest battles, and while it is fine to read their stories -- it is even finer to hear them.

Tom King was a combat pilot in the south pacific in World War II.

Now, even at 97, the memories are vivid about the butterflies that came before a mission.

“The night before you saw the poster who would fly the next day and that would worry you during the night," King said. "'Did you have a good position?' you would think about that until morning.”

Some he says it more scary than even combat.

"I think of the combat and being in formation flying over Japanese ships, one plane exploded next to me, then the smoke. People scrambling. I can still see it,” King said. “But I would like to tell you a funny story.”

Tom remembers the new soldier who said he didn't need to wear a helmet during enemy raids.

“And then on the next raid, I was running and I saw him. I never thought I would see a grown man crawl into a helmet, but he was inside it, let me tell you,” King said.

Thursday was the Veterans Breakfast at the Bellevue YMCA.

A chance to say thank you and to soak it in.

“The spirit of it should be carried from generation to generation, the spirit of the willingness to sacrifice for other people, that should be passed on,” Bellevue YMCA Pastor Chuck Frazier said.

King will tell you his service shaped his life, but it was his love of gymnastics that has kept him fit.

Tom is kind of legend around the Y, because at 97 he still does a traditional workout.

“He still does strength training that impresses me, nobody does free weights in their nineties,” Frazier laughed.

Tom has worn many hats over the years - gymnast, wrestler, fighter pilot, Georgia Tech grad, construction engineer -- yet ask him what he is most proud of and there is no hesitation.

"The thing I am most proud of is I met a beautiful girl, and we married, and we stayed married for 71 years. She passed away just last year and I treasure our wonderful life together,” King said.

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