Honoring a Paradise veteran

The story of a Paradise veteran, just two and a half years from his 100th birthday.

Posted: Nov. 11, 2017 7:18 PM
Updated: Nov. 11, 2017 8:49 PM

The story of a Paradise veteran, just two and a half years from his 100th birthday.

Al Manninen is one of a mere 558,000 surviving American veterans of World War II.

We were invited along as his son surprised him with a very special Veterans Day gift.

Inside this senior living facility on this November afternoon in paradise - sits a man whose primary concerns these days are winning at bingo and finding that elusive piece of a jigsaw puzzle.

But it turns out this is no ordinary day, which is okay because this is no ordinary man.

"I joined the Navy to see the world," Al said.

97-year-old Albert Manninen - he prefers Al, he is one of a rapidly dwindling population of World War II veterans. And on Friday, though he doesn't know it yet, he’s receiving an unexpected reminder of his honored service to our country - delivered by a proud son.

"Some of the people of Guam recognized or heard that my dad was stationed there during the war. They decided to honor him by giving him a flag that was flown on the island of Guam and then flown to him on a b1 bomber," said John Manninen, son of Al Mannien.

Al joined the Navy just months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, 76-years ago.

To put that in perspective, 76 years before Al joined the Navy, Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox.

"Time flies that's for sure,” Al said.

Al was trained as an aircraft mechanic, specializing in hydraulics.

He arrived at Pearl Harbor just days after the Japanese attack, later, his squadron participated in one of the most famous battles of the war in the Pacific.

"There for the battle of midway. We gave them the fighting equipment they needed and so glad when they sunk all those Japanese carriers,” Al said.

He was later assigned to Guam where he repaired airplanes for nearly a year - then - following the war, Al met a girl named Joanne.

He must have liked her - because he married her one week later.

In civilian life, Al worked in construction in Southern California.

He and Joanne had three children.

They retired to paradise in 1983.

The girl he married after just one week, died in 2008 - after 61 years of marriage.

As of Friday, as he works on yet another jigsaw puzzle, and looks forward to the next round of bingo, Al's son John, also a Navy veteran who served in the Vietnam War, wants his dad to know that the role he played in protecting our freedoms, is not forgotten.

"Here’s a flag from the island of Guam. They flew it on Guam and some people wanted to honor you for your service in Guam by giving you this flag. It was flown over on a b1 bomber and it's for you,” John said.

"Oh boy, wow. Yes," Al said.

With the surprise honor comes obvious joy and pride, mission accomplished.

"He made me proud. I followed in his footsteps he's a great leader. He a wonderful guy and does the right thing every time,” John said.

"I think it's the greatest flag that ever flew," Al said.

And like the folks back in Guam, we thank you for your service, Al.

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