SPARTA, Mich.-- A World War II veteran in West Michigan is being celebrated for his bravery and service.
At 94 years old, Charles Brown can still recall what it was like to be notified that he had been drafted to serve in World War II. Brown tells FOX 17 he was told in 1943 by his local draft board that “Your neighbors and friends have selected you to go." Brown was only 18 years old.
He says he saw it coming; his friends and relatives were already fighting overseas.
Brown went to train as a radioman in the Navy. He was sent to the Marshall Islands where he helped relay messages in Morse Code to American and allied ships. Brown served for three years and returned home in 1946 to Michigan where he met his wife Maggie. They have been married now for 71 years and spent their Veterans Day weekend surrounded by family.
“We just think the world of him and thank him for his service," says Brown's granddaughter Sarah Bolek Grove.
Brown's family helped surprise him on Saturday with a Quilt of Valor from the Patriotic Piecers Group. It's the second time Brown has been awarded a quilt. This recent quilt includes a patch that reads, "To thank and honor you for your sacrifice and dedication to our country during World War II and the protection of our freedoms while serving in the U.S. Navy."
“It was thrilling," says Brown. "You know, it was a surprise because I didn’t know it was gonna happen but these ladies were very, very great. It’s a great organization.”
With so many ways to honor America's veterans, Brown says what means the most to him is the simplest gesture from a stranger.
“If I have my cap on, to have people come up and thank me, and a lot of people do," says Brown. "That makes you feel good to know that they remember that you were there.”
Brown says he wouldn't want to have to go through those three years in World War II again but it's an experience he wouldn't trade for anything.
His family says they're proud to call him their Grandpa Charlie.
“He doesn’t want the attention on himself but to our family, he’s our hero," says Grove.
Brown says he will always honor and remember the men and women who gave their lives in World War II, including his cousin Clyde who died in a Japanese prison camp and his other cousin Ralph, who was killed in Belgium.