Jackson County Veterans Day tribute at Moss Point monument
Nov. 11 is a very special day for William “Wild Bill” Allen of Gulfport.
Nov. 11 is recognized across the nation as Veterans Day, a day to honor and remember those who have served or are serving in the armed forces. But Friday was a special day for Allen for another reason.
“I turned 91 on Veterans Day,” Allen said. “I was born on 11-11 at 11:05 p.m.”
Yes, every year when Nov. 11 rolls around, Allen celebrates his birthday and remembers his fellow veterans. And at 91, Allen is also about to exchange vows of holy matrimony.
Serving his country
Allen, who lives at the Armed Forces Retirement Home, said he was born in Missouri but he considers himself to be a native of Texas. It was in Houston where Allen joined the U.S. Navy.
“I joined in May 1942 after Pearl Harbor,” he said. “A crew from Houston was sunk and they asked all of Texas to volunteer and 1,600 of us did — I was 16 when I joined the Navy.”
Allen flew blimps and escorted convoys and tried to protect them from submarine attacks, especially along the coast of Africa.
“I flew over 10,000 hours in 22 years,” he said.
Home on the Coast
Allen said he retired to Gulfport in 2001.
“I love this place — this is as close to paradise as I’m ever going to get,” he said as Ray Charles’ “America the Beautiful” played over the public address during a Veterans Day ceremony at the Armed Forces Retirement Home. “In paradise, you have angels and my angels are the staff who take care of me at the retirement home.”
He said he is not only fond of the Coast, but Mississippi in general.
“Mississippi is full of grace,” Allen said. “And I like to have a little wine under a magnolia tree every once in a while.”
Here comes the bride
On Sunday, Nov. 20, Allen will say “I do” for the fourth time in his life when he gets married at the chapel on the campus of the retirement home.
“I met a lady from Biloxi and we love each other,” Allen said. “She’s 76 and I’m 91 and we added it up and we have 167 years between us and we should have known better than to get married.”
Allen said he has some words to live by for those thinking about getting married.
“We’re not going to live together,” he said. “She has her place and I have my place and the secret to it is that we are just going to keep acting like we are dating.”