This month we celebrate America’s Independence Day and honor those who have stood in harm’s way to defend our country, our values, and our freedoms.
Atria Canyon Creek, a beautiful senior living residence in Plano, maintains a Hall of Honor room in recognition of their veterans. Photographs, newspaper clippings, medals, books, models of wartime ships and planes, among other memorabilia, fill the room.
Two of the resident veterans, Al Medlin and Frank Hufstedler, were Navy pilots in WWII. Al was a fighter pilot, and Frank flew a PBY. “That was the slowest airplane in the United States services,” Frank said with a laugh.
As humble as they are patriotic, both men were reluctant to share their contributions to the war effort. Frank said, “All I did in the war—I did nothing heroic or anything like that—I just flew that big old boat there,” pointing to a model of a PBY. “Anytime somebody got shot down, I’dsneak in there, land in the water, pick them up, and take them to the hospital.”
Told he was a hero to those men and their families, Frank responded modestly, “I was just doing my job.” Then looking at Al he said, “Now there’s a hero for you. He was a fighter pilot.”
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Looking like he could still climb into the cockpit of a fighter plane, Al said, “I flew Navy fighters—carrier-based fighters. However, I was not a hero. I never shot at the enemy, and the enemy never shot at me,” he said with a smile.
But reminders of World War II around the room, and knowing what was required of those men, contradict their claims of not being heroes.
After the war, when the men returned to their homes, they did not return to their former lives. Al, who was a year away from graduating with a degree in agriculture from Texas Tech University before the war, remained in the Navy Reserves until 1956 and became a commercial airline pilot.
Frank continued flying for the Navy, but hearing loss in one ear led him to leave the military and pursue a successful sales career.
Both men, who defy their 90+ years, are fit and healthy. In fact, Frank just finished playing a volleyball game prior to the interview.
Asked what accounts for their robust health and good looks, Al joked, “It was all that Navy food.”
At Atria, veterans of all eras are invited to monthly meetings in a social gathering area. Fourteen of these veterans served during WWII. Al said of the Hall of Honor room, “It makes the veterans proud to be here, and Atria goes to a great deal of effort to make us feel at home and honored.”