MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - It's a day of celebration aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown as a veteran who served on the ship celebrated his 95th birthday.
Bill Watkinson was a fighter pilot on the aircraft carrier during World War II.
"It kept me alive and that was a great thing," Watkinson said. "This ship was very good to me. It took me on board when I had a broken airplane and no other ship in the fleet would do it. And I'm forever grateful for that."
He was also part of many missions leading up to the end of the war and even flew on patrol while the official Japanese surrender was being signed.
On Monday, volunteers at Patriots Point gathered to surprise him, thanking him for all he's done for our country.
"What a tribute to him to have him come aboard and even have someone who's 95 years old with us!" volunteer Tom Valen Tukonis said.
"I was amazed, I was amazed," Watkinson said of the surprise. "I had no idea this was taking place."
After World War II, Bill trained pilots for the Korean War. He flew for Eastern Airlines for 31 years and then after retiring, he bought a farm and raised prize horses.
But now, he regularly volunteers on the ship that carries a lot of memories.
"Bill is very special," Yorktown Volunteer Coordinator Brad Brisard said. "He has some of the highest hours recorded out here as a volunteer. He'll spend two hours walking up and down this floor talking to people."
In December, Watkinson was invited to participate in the national Pearl Harbor memorial ceremony in Hawaii. Not long after attending the event, he
fell and dislocated his hip. He has been recovering from the injury for the last few weeks.