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‘He deserves every bit of it.’ Parade held for Battle of the Bulge veteran’s 100th birthday

Daily Press - 7/10/2022

The crowd cheered as the motorcade made its way down a block of East Mellen Street in Phoebus on Sunday.

In the passenger seat of a Cadillac, World War II veteran Leonard Yarrington waved to the well-wishers who had assembled for his 100th birthday celebration at the VFW Post 3219.

“It’s outstanding,” he said while sitting inside at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3219 with his family while roughly 200 people who had gathered for the event mingled and ate. Yarrington turned 100 on Thursday.

Yarrington served three years and two months in the U.S. Army and saw action in the Battle of the Bulge and other engagements as Allied forces pushed the Nazis back into Germany from France and the Low Countries. Yarrington worked on the crew of a 105 mm howitzer with the 79th Infantry Division. He entered active service on Nov. 25, 1942, after being inducted two weeks prior and left Europe for home on Dec. 20, 1945.

Other WWII veterans attended the party, such as Albert Nelson, 96, of Norfolk. Nelson served in the Army, like Yarrington.

He said WWII veterans are like brothers in the way they care for each other, and many veterans never shared their own stories of what they had seen in battle.

“Many of us never said anything,” Nelson said.

Nelson never told his parents about his own near-death experience while serving as an infantryman in Europe, he said.

But as he got older, he found himself more able to talk with others about his experiences. Nelson said there have been many veterans who have passed without telling their own stories.

“I don’t really talk about it a whole lot,” Yarrington said of his service. “I don’t like to because I had nightmares when I came back.”

He had such bad nightmares he would wake up fighting, so he and his first wife had to sleep in separate beds.

His second wife, Betty Yarrington, helped him to deal with and reduce them, he said.

“She kinda got me away from that darn thing,” Yarrington said. Betty Yarrington died over a decade ago.

Reesey Watson, Leonard’s daughter, said the care shown by the community for her father at the Sunday celebration meant a lot to the family.

“He deserves every bit of it,” said Mike Yarrington, Reesey’s twin, 68, of Hampton,

Mike Yarrington joined the U.S. Army at the age of 20 in 1973 and served in the Vietnam War as he felt called to serve in the military as his father had.

“I had to follow him,” he said.

Beth Ford, 53, of Yorktown, was one of the motorcycle riders in the motorcade and is the Post Commander of Post 3219 in Phoebus.

“It could have been a blizzard today and we were riding for Mr. Yarrington,” she said.

As guests came up to shake his hand and give him cards Sunday, Yarrington sat surrounded by family, friends and a community of veterans.

“I can’t believe my eyes and what I’ve seen — what they’ve done for me,” Yarrington said.

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