WELLINGTON — Following a Memorial Day ceremony at Prairie Lawn Cemetery, the Veteran’s Room of Memorial Hall in downtown Wellington was open and Les Thompson, a 96-year-old veteran of World War II attended.
When asked if he would stand in a picture, Thompson, wearing a military hat and suit and necktie, pushed his walker aside and stood before his old Army uniform as well as Air Force, Navy and Marine uniforms donated by his sons and a grandson who followed him into military service.
When going out in public, Thompson usually wears a ball cap identifying him as a World War II veteran and on every such outing, people come up to him and thank him for his service, he said. On Dec. 7 of last year, the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he was the only World War II veteran at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita. High school ROTC students who posed with him for a picture were in awe of this living World War II veteran.
Thompson has been invited to be present at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Museum and Library this June 5 and 6 for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
Born with the help of a midwife on his family farm in Rome, Thompson was 20 when he was drafted into the Army in 1942.
An Army medic, stationed in the Pacific during World War II, Thompson traveled by ship to islands as part of a hospital platoon, caring for wounded patients.
″I just knew I had stuff to do,” he said.
He recalled one time, being onboard a troop ship when Japanese dive bombers sunk the ship behind his. Gunners from the ship Thompson was on downed the bombers and their ship was preserved.
″We scrambled for the shore,” he said.
His girlfriend, Pearl, from back home, took a train to Marysville, California when he was stationed there at Camp Beale and they married on July 25, 1943. They were married for more than 50 years when she died in the 1990s.
After being discharged from the service in 1946, Thompson returned to Sumner County, farmed a few years, then worked at a full service gas station in Wellington. One day, the Wellington police chief came by the station and told Thompson he should apply for a job with the police department.
After 22 years with the department, Thompson retired in 1973 with the rank of assistant chief of police.
His nephew, Curt Thompson, who Les Thompson helped raise, said, “I’m just thankful he helped me when I was young. He gave me a good representation to follow. We wouldn’t have the country we have if not for the veterans.”