103-year-old World War II veteran is world-famous

Orland Phillips received over two-thousand birthday cards from people all over the world
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 4:42 PM EDT
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WILLIS, Va. (WDBJ) - Small towns like to talk and if you ask the folks in Willis, Virginia for the scoop on Orland Phillips, they have nothing but good things to say! Some say, “He’s a national treasure!” Others say, “He is a legend!” Close friends say, “He is a hardworking man, a good Christian man, and he is an inspiration!”

But Mr. Phillips himself would tell you different. “I’m just an overripe hillbilly!”

Phillips grew up in the hill country of West Virginia. He is unlike any other veteran we have interviewed for Hometown Veterans: Honoring Our Heroes. He’s not only a World War II veteran, he is also 103 years old, and still has his military discharge papers.

Phillips was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1941 and was making military parts for the war in Europe to fight against the Nazis. While he never fought in combat, most of his time was spent on several islands in the South Pacific, including New Guinea. “I was never in actual combat, but I witnessed bombers fly over at night, keep us in the foxhole, and keep us from sleeping,” Phillips laughed.

In 1946, Phillips was honorably discharged and met his wife Leora. Together they had four daughters. And forget that he dropped out of school in the eighth grade, Phillips went on to become an entrepreneur and started a successful welding and machine shop.

His wife has since passed, and these days you can find him in the house he built with his own hands back in 1951. He enjoys bird watching, feeding the squirrels, and visiting with children who want to shake the hand of a local hero.

For his 103rd birthday in February, he received over 2,000 birthday cards and letters, from all over the world including four different countries. Mr. Phillips plans to spend the rest of his days sending out thank you cards to all of his fans.

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