CORONADO, California (AP) — The Navy recognized a 102-year-old World War II veteran Thursday by inaugurating a new barracks in his name, a rare honor for a living recipient.
From his wheelchair, retired Chief Steward Andy Mills waved to the sailors attending the ceremony Thursday at the naval base, in Coronado, California, near San Diego. Mills told reporters softly before the ceremony that he was overjoyed by the honor.
“Oh beautiful,” he told reporters when asked to describe how he felt seeing the barracks in his name, shaking his head side to side. “That’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen so far.”
He added moments later: “I think I have a lot of friends.”
One of the maritime branch’s first black chiefs, Mills risked his life for the service despite facing discrimination in a then-segregated Navy.
In 1942, Mills volunteered to board the USS Yorktown after it was attacked by the Japanese during the Battle of Midway. He cracked open a safe containing documents and bills on the heavily damaged ship. He and a paymaster stuffed them in a suitcase, got a rope and lowered it down off the ship before the Japanese attacked again, destroying the Yorktown and the USS Hammann next to it.
Capt. Stephen Barnett met Mills two years ago at an event in San Diego and said he was so moved by the man and what he had done that he wanted to honor him and have young sailors learn about the inspiring chief.
“He wasn’t treated like his shipmates but it never stopped him from his duty — a duty he carried out with courage, honor and…
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