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Recognizing and remembering a Heartland WWII veteran

Don Clay shared a picture of him in uniform during WWII (KTVO)

As the nation prepares to celebrate Veterans Day on Saturday, we’re recognizing 98-year-old Don Clay.

16-million Americans served in World War II.

As of this year, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates only 558,000 World War II Veterans are still living.

Clay, is one of them.

“I was in the 13th Armored Division, 45th Tank Battalion, and I went to Germany twice and Korea once,” Clay said.

He was just 22 when he decided to serve his country.

“I volunteered for draft, I knew I was going to go. A couple of my friends were going and we all went together,” Clay explained.

Two of Clay’s brothers also fought in World War II.

One in the Air Force, and one who was killed in action while serving in the infantry.

98-year-old Clay told KTVO he’s been notified that he is the oldest living member of the 13th Armored Division.

But age didn’t fade the horrors of war.

“If you were one of them kind that took it to heart, it was bad,” said Clay.

For Clay though…a sense of humor seems to help.

“When I was down at the hospital, I think I had my hearing checked, and this nurse, she was kind of joking, and she said, 'What did you do to live as long as you did?' and I said, ‘I don’t tell everybody, but I’m going to tell you since you asked me, I said, it’s good whiskey and fast women."

But he did have his own struggles after returning from war.

“I did drink a lot. I came home and got lost in my own bathroom and tried to walk out through the mirror through the door, and I said, ‘Lord, help me over this, and I’ll quit, and I haven’t took a sip since,” Clay remembered.

And came through it a better person.

“I have had some rough spots in my life that I am not too proud of, but I lived over it,” Clay said.

With at least one piece of advice for others on living their life to the fullest.

“Well, the way I look at this life, treat people like you want to be treated,” Clay said.

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