The Greatest Generation: Honoring 100-year-old WWII Navy veteran Charles Wells


VAN BUREN, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) — A World War II veteran who turned 100-years-old this year died on Saturday. It’s a reminder that we are slowly losing a whole generation who defended our country overseas.

KNWA/FOX24 was there six months ago when family and friends gathered to celebrate Charles “Penn” Wells’ 100th birthday. On Saturday, the beloved husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather and World War II Navy veteran died.

“He was a giving person,” said Terry Wells, who is Charles’ oldest son. “I don’t think he had a bad thought about anybody, he treated people with respect.”

Monday, people gathered to remember and honor Wells at his funeral service in Van Buren. Terry said in times of difficulties, his dad would always help his neighbors.

“People were at his house all the time and he gave them all the water they wanted,” he said.

He said with a laugh that his dad knew he was going to get drafted, so he decided to enlist in the Navy instead.

“Mr. Wells, besides being 100-years-old and a World War II veteran, he was a comrade and a veteran so we’re here to honor his service,” said Johnny Gothard, Honor Guard Member for VFW Post 1322.

The members of Post 1322 in Van Buren sent Charles off the best way they know how.

“One of the community service functions that our post performs are these military honors,” he said. “We fire a firearm volley, play the bugle and fold the flag if asked to.”

Wells’ death highlights how we are continuing to lose our Greatest Generation members, which are those born between the years 1901 and 1924. Most were in their teens or early 20’s when World War II started, which was a prime age group to join the war when it started in 1939.

According to the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, only about 240,000 of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II are still alive today. An estimated 234 veterans are dying everyday, meaning nearly all could be gone by 2032.

“When I joined the VFW in the early 80’s, most majority of the membership was WWII veterans,” said Gothard. “Our VFW was actually started by World War I veterans.”

Terry said his whole family is proud of Charles’ service.

“He was a great man,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that will tell you that they wouldn’t be where they are today if it wasn’t for him.”

Charles’ family is asking people to plant trees in his honor. Click here to learn more.

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