Former soldier looks back on World War II experience as just another day in life

Woodrow Hairl
It's the duffle bag Sgt. First Class Woodrow Hairl used when he enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II.
He still uses it today.  

Ask the 87-year-old Greenville, Mississippi man about his war-time experiences and he’ll be happy to fill you in. He doesn’t think his story is compelling.

He served under General George S. Patton and traveled all over Europe from 1945-46 as a member of the US Army. 

“I was just a southern boy growing up in Greenville before the war. We raised cotton, corn, and peanuts."

Woodrow is remarkably modest. “This is what was asked of us. This is what we did and it made a man out of me.”

“I was in Germany and heading to Japan on the Queen Mary when the first atomic bomb was dropped by a U.S. aircraft on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. That's when I decided to get out of the military,” he adds.

After his service, he moved to Chicago where he lived for 20 years. That's where he met Dr. Martin Luther King ,Jr., and stood beside him sweeping streets before dusk in an effort to clean up urban neighborhoods. Woodrow held odd jobs during this time: airport bus driver and certified welder for the government.

Woodrow receives food items at HVAF
He struggled to keep a job which led to financial hardship. He came to HVAF in 2012 for help.

“If it wasn’t for HVAF, I don’t know where I’d get my next meal.”

Once a month for the past year, Woodrow has been relying on HVAF for food, toothbrushes, deodorant, clothes and other hygiene items that help get him through each month. Still, he struggles to understand his financial loan information.

Woodrow has made a lasting impression on HVAF staff members as well as outreach volunteer, Jim Thompson.

"I thought he’d be a good candidate for the Indy Honor Flight, whose mission is to transport American's veterans to Washington DC to visit the Memorials, but then I didn’t see him again for six months. I owe him because everything I have is because of people like him who served to protect our country,” says Jim, “I plan to be his sponsor on the trip.” 

“I’m very excited to have been selected for Indy Honor Flight and to see the monuments on April 5,” says Woodrow. I'd like to think I leave a little history and I hope I did some good in this world and I think I did," he said.