From a hospital bed at Central Peninsula Hospital, World War II veteran and local fisherman Bill Field marked a milestone so rare it’s practically unheard of — 70 years as a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Gathered at his bedside, a group of his fellow veterans — in VFW hats and coats — honored Field for his service to the community.
John Walker, Commander of the Jerry V. Horn Memorial Post 10046 in Soldotna, attached the 70-year anniversary pin to Field’s hospital gown. The group had to make a special request just to get it, Walker said.
“We didn’t even have a 70-year pin,” Walker said. “We had to order one.”
Now 96, and hospitalized due to an accident late last year, Field joined the U.S. Army in 1944, serving in the 106th Infantry Regiment. He fought in the battles of Saipan and Okinawa at the close of World War II, earning a Purple Heart for his service. Field was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in May 1946. He joined the VFW in California in 1948 and was a founding member of the Soldotna chapter in 1968.
A set-net fisherman on the peninsula for 48 years, Field has been doing outreach and community service with the chapter for decades. He’s also been a fixture at parades.
“I love the parades,” Senior Vice Commander Darwin Johnson said. “Bill has always done the parades. In the last few years he has not been able to walk them. He has an honored seat in the Cadillac right behind the flag.”
Johnson, a Vietnam veteran who has been involved in the VFW since 1972 and a member of the Soldotna chapter since the early 1980s, said Field is one of the few links veterans have to an older generation of veterans.
“We don’t have that many WWII veterans left,” Johnson said. “So we enjoy being with them. They’re fun guys. And they’re just fun to be with.”
Michael Meredith was a commander of the Soldotna chapter for three years. During that time he attended more than 100 funerals and celebrations of life, and Field was there with him for most of them.
“Out of all the times I’ve known Bill Field, there’s never been a time … he wasn’t smiling,” Meredith said.
Even in his hospital bed, Field was smiling. When asked how he felt about achieving the milestone, Field was cheerful as ever.
“Makes me feel great,” he said. “Thank you.”