CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - The years fell away and the memories came alive as paratrooper in World War II John Tate looked at war scenes that he actually lived through depicted in memorial panels.
"Stand up and hook up. Right there, the guys yell close it open and stand in the door. That's when you're.. that's when you're scared to death.
73 years after he enlisted, Tate's still smiling, and is treated like a rock star wherever he rolls.
Tate is one of just a handful of world war two veterans on the Queen City Honor Flight. Tate and his fellow brothers in arms were awarded medals for their service, service for which he willingly signed up.
“The first day I was there, we went around the corner going into the chow line and there's a big sign that says, ‘jump into the fire.’ And there was a paratrooper coming down and he had a sub machine gun and had that chin strap and shiny boots. I said, Hell that's me,” said Tate.
But by the time he made it to Japan, the war was over. These stories mean more, he tells me, when he's sharing them with fellow veterans.
“I don't know what it is. But it's just when you look at the guy, you say you know he's had his ass kicked too. You know, pardon my French. But he's had his ass kicked. And he knows what it's like, and he knows what it's like to be scared. And what it's like to be broke and hungry and we all were that way one time or another. And he knows what it is, you're just bonded with some brothers.
That's the sacrifice the Honor Flight celebrates before it's too late and it means a great deal to this old soldier.
“I tell you what, when I came through the airport this morning and those little old Boy Scouts. Hell I cried like a baby, I couldn't help it, I said ‘I'm sorry,’ and them little old Boy Scouts come in looking so proud, stuck those hands out and I said, damn, that's it, that's what it's about, isn't it, I'm just tickled to death,” Tate said.
Tate's son Clint came with him to D.C. and is quite used to Dad's cheeky side.
“He's probably cried two or three times, coming through the airport. Everybody's cheering for him, he says if the trip ended right now, I've had a ball,” said Clint. “Yeah, he's always like this. Never a dull moment and you never know what's going to happen. I wind up apologizing sometimes, I wind up laughing sometimes.”
FOX 46’s Diana Alvear says she laughed too, Tate's easy to love. A national treasure who deserves all the thanks in the world.