SPIRIT OF ALABAMA: World War II Marine Tommy Wilson - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

SPIRIT OF ALABAMA: World War II Marine Tommy Wilson

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The boys of World War II and Korea are now our senior citizens. The boys of the 1930s went off to war as teenagers or a little older.

Mr. and Mrs. James F. Wilson of Central Park sent all four of their sons off to war in World War II and Korea. Imagine seeing all four of your boys join the Marines -- almost always on the front lines of battle.

Marines will tell you that Marines are Marines forever, not just while they're on active duty.

One of the Wilson boys, Tommy Wilson, will still be a marine when he turns 90 this fall.

Tommy Wilson has a bad back and his hearing is shot. Having a enemy mortar shell hit next to you on a beach will do that. Tommy Wilson was on the beaches of Guam under heavy enemy fire in World War II -- he never heard the mortar hit.

"I was on the beach for a while, how long I don't know. All of a sudden I came to and people were layin all around," Tommy said.

Many were dead, but Tommy Wilson was alive, with wounds that would require 13 months of hospitalization.

"They hauled me off to the beach with a bunch more people, then they put us on the ship and took us to the hospital," he recalled.

They call it the medal no one want to get. Tommy received the Purple Heart and many other citations for his service. Later, his younger brother, Speedy, fought in Korea and received the nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor.  

Harold Edward Wilson picked up the nickname "Speedy" for how quick he was delivering groceries in the Central Park area as a kid.

"Well, everybody loved Speedy. Everybody loved Tommy too, but Speedy was outgoing and he just, everybody loved him," Tommy's wife, Lottie Wilson, said.

Speedy was shot in the arm, leg, head and shoulder, but he fought on, saving the lives of many of his men.

After the war, President Harry Truman hung the medal of honor around Speedy's neck. It was in every paper in the country. Later, at a reunion of Medal of Honor recipients, he met President John F. Kennedy, as well.

Lottie and and Tommy Wilson have been married for 65 years. Military medals are important and well-deserved, but Tommy might be most proud of his record since the war -- as Lottie's life partner.

"Well, he's always been a good, faithful husband. He has always cared for his family, he has always provided us with everything we think we need. And he's a good Christian. If you live a good life I think God takes care of ya," Lottie said.

Tommie and Lottie Wilson have taken care of each other for a lot of years now -- and that won't stop anytime soon. One thing Tommy's never been able to get back is his ring finger on his left hand. That mortar blew it off.

When asked where he wore his wedding ring, Tommie said "She took it away from me," with a laugh.

If Tommy Wilson hadn't been so badly injured, he might not have survived World War II. After Guam, he knew where he was going next.

"Iwo Jima. Yea, and that was the bloodiest battle of the whole World War II. There was a lot of em killed," Tommy recalled.

Tommy Wilson is a private person. In fact, he was reluctant to do a television interview at all. A caring neighbor encourage him to talk to us, and Lottie may have thought it would be good, too.  We're glad he agreed, if for no other reason to give us a chance to say "Thank you."

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