Three veterans recently celebrated their century of life, living a full, healthy life after serving the nation during World War II. Check out their stories below!
His Secret “Beans and Cornbread”
WWII veteran Garrett Mathes marks his 100th Birthday, and he celebrated it with five generations of his family on Sunday, September 4.
The Grand Junction veteran celebrated his century of life, giving credit to all the simple things he had throughout the years. In a news report, Garrett shared that he “lived a century filled with unforgettable experiences,” from living through the dirty thirties in Oklahoma to serving in the Army during World War II.
Born in September 1922 in Oklahoma, Garrett and his father traveled west during the Great Depression, searching for employment when they “stumble upon a sign to pick peaches.” When the war broke out, Garrett was in Colorado, where he would enlist and serve as an aircraft instructor and mechanic in the Army Air Corps.
But according to the man himself, his most significant achievement in life is his family. Garrett has a full brood of Mathes consisting of seven boys and three girls.
One of Garrett’s daughters, Georgia Powell, hailed how wonderful the Army veteran is as a father. “Everyone loves him,” she added. “It’s amazing. I just can’t believe that he made it to 100.”
Garrett’s son, Pete Mathes, also shared the same sentiments, saying, “If there’s one favorite thing I like about him, except for he’s been a good caring father,” adding how Garrett has been good to him throughout his life.
Aside from the simple things in life, Garrett credited “eating lots of beans and cornbread” for having to achieve his centenarian milestone. In fact, his doctor even signed off his driver’s license renewal because he’s in excellent shape.
Served the Air Force for 22 Years
Last week, another WWII veteran also celebrated his century of life milestone surrounded by family and friends at the Broken Arrow Senior Center, Oklahoma.
Retired Major Virgil Domino served in the Air Force for 22 years, with over 18,000 flight hours under his belt. According to the news report, Virgil flew a Boeing B-47 Stratojet on a mission during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
Three years after, Major Domino retired from Air Force and ventured into another career path as one of the pilots for Air America. His new career allowed him and his family to travel the world, and they did until 1972 when he finally retired.
Unlike Garrett, Virgil only had two children with the love of his life, Millie (who also reached the triple-digit milestone before passing). Dale Domino said he is grateful to celebrate such an occasion and achievement with his Dad, adding how “[it] means a lot to be able to be with him.”
The Oklahoma Centenarians awarded Major Domino for this milestone.
“Cherokee Warrior” WAC Veteran
Another WWII veteran who recently achieved the Centenarian milestone worth noting is the Oklahoma veteran Winifred Imogene ‘Freddie’ Whelchel Dudley.
Freddie was born and raised in Westville during the tragic eras of the Great Depression and WWII. At 19, she enlisted in the then newly-formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. A year later, the unit was changed to the Women’s Army Air Corps (WAAC), officially granting military status to those women who volunteered to contribute and serve the country. It was the groundbreaker for women in US active service. There, Freddie served as a clerical worker, military postal worker, and Chaplin’s assistant. She even worked on the B-24 bombers’ machinery thanks to her small stature, which allowed her to climb behind the instrument panels.
She later met her husband, Jess “Jay” Dudley, who also served in the Army Air Corps and received the Bronze Star award for his valor during the Normandy Invasion and Battle of the Bulge. He sadly passed away in 2016 at age 95, but he was survived by Freddie and their kids.
Like her husband, Freddie went on to establish her own legacy. On August 15, the Centenarian dubbed a “Cherokee Warrior” received the tribe’s Medal of Patriotism during the monthly Tribal Council Meeting. Wayne Dudley, her son, was present at the ceremony and couldn’t be more proud of his mother.
“She was a forerunner for women,” Wayne shared. “Prior to World War II, there were no women enlisted in the military of the United States. But they had already used up all of the boys in the US, basically. There was a need for certain jobs in the military operation they needed to fill, so they began enlisting women for the first time ever.”
Despite the disbandment of the branch in 1798 (all units were integrated into the male units), veterans who served the WAC remain to be honored. In 2010, Freddie had the opportunity to take her first Honor Flight as a WWII veteran. After her trip, she helps to co-found an Honor Flight program for the Tulsa area, allowing WWII veterans to Washington, DC, for free.