Ridgefield American Legion Post 44 member William “Lucky” Mullins celebrated his 103rd birthday on May 4, surrounded by his family and members of the post at a retirement home in Vancouver.
Mullins, a World War II veteran, served in the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged when the war ended in 1945.
He was born on May 17, 1919, in Coalgate, Oklahoma, according to a speech read by Post 44 member and veteran Judith Wyatt. Besides his military experience, Wyatt highlighted how Mullins was often admired by women growing up.
“I was never out of a job or a girlfriend,” said Mullins with a laugh.
Wyatt said Mullins was sent to northern France during WWII. His new post was a castle that overlooked the Rhine River.
“His duty then was to be a guard over approximately 100 German POWs,” Wyatt said. “But all of his training was for good, and he was in a place doing what he was trained to do. Lucky, being the guy that he is, he never lost sight of where he came from and never lost his compassion for other people. It didn’t matter if they were German prisoners of war.”
Wyatt said Mullins would take the prisoners of war down to the river to swim. During the act of kindness, Mullins was ready in case anything went wrong. Wyatt said one particular POW tested Mullins by swimming further than he was supposed to. Once the prisoner reached a certain distance, Mullins pointed his rifle at the Nazi soldier, which stoked fear in the man and prompted him to return back to his captivity.
“That just goes to show Lucky was doing his job and doing it well,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt said witnessing the deaths of hundreds of prisoners are memories Mullins has had to carry with him throughout his life.
“I have not been in a battle, but I have a father and brothers who were, and I understand that pain,” Wyatt said.
Mullins served a total of four years, nine months, and 15 days in the Army. He met his wife, Marvelynn, in 1946. The two were married for 71 years until her death.
The church was important to the couple and faith was something Mullins worked to instill in his children.
“He’s been very unselfish in his life. He has a pleasant nature and I think that’s what has led him to the people who have needed him most, and for him to seek out those who needed his help,” Wyatt said.
After the speech, Post 44 awarded Mullins with a commemorative box containing the American flag. The Columbia River Chorus also sang the national anthem to him. The crowd then sang happy birthday to Mullins as he was presented a chocolate cake with the American flag on it.
Mullins recalled how the Nazi soldiers he guarded were “very young,” while more experienced POWs like the SS troops were guarded by other soldiers. He also detailed his experience of the lone POW who attempted to escape in the river while swimming.
“I knew that this guy knew how far he could swim because he kept swimming and looked back at me,” said Mullins. “I knew what he was thinking, that he had been thinking about getting out of there. I was looking at him through the sights of that M1 (rifle) and he turned around and came back, and told me he figured I was going to shoot him. I would have shot him, but I shot so close that it scared him back. I was a pretty good shot.”
He said that these days, he passes the time by going for walks, which reminds him of having to walk 20 miles a day during the war. Mullins also plays games like Yahtzee and enjoys spending time with his family.
“My wife and I would hold hands even when we were sleeping,” he said. “We didn’t walk 10 feet without our hands together. We loved each other. Nobody takes her place.”
Mullins’ daughters Jaylene Mullins and Cindy Richert were at the event with their husbands. They both visit their father frequently at the Sherwood Adult Family Home in Vancouver where he lives.
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