A World War II veteran is reunited with a piece of his past.
“The jacket is a part of my life,” explained WWII veteran Kenny Gaines.
And, it’s a piece of history 95-year-old Gaines has been missing for the last couple years.
Kenny was drafted in the Army Air Corps at 18 years old back in 1943. During WWII, Kenny was accepted into the pilot training program after passing the test.
“About 35 of us went and took the test and only two passed it and I was one of them,” Gaines explained. “I accidentally was a good test taker I think. So I was out of there in two days.”
Kenny thought he would fly C-47’s, but instead he went to Whiteman Air Force Base under the command of General Henry Arnold. General Arnold took it upon himself to have jackets made for his crew, that would look nicer than the regular army uniform.
“He got $300 out of the government for our uniforms and that included being tailor-made,” said Gaines.
The jacket became a big part of Gaines’ past and soon after became a big part of his family. His brother-in-law became a second lieutenant in the ROTC and called Gaines up for a favor when he needed a jacket, too.
“‘They’re not going to buy my uniform,'” Gaines continued. “‘I’m going to have to buy it myself’ and I expected it was over $300 because times had changed even in ten years. So he said ‘You still got that jacket?’ I said ‘Yeah, it’s right here in the closet.’ He said ‘Can I try it on?’ He came out and it fit perfectly.”
So, that jacket traveled from WII with Gaines… to the Korean and Vietnam Wars with his brother-in-law. But when Gaines bought a 1935 home in Mount Vernon back in 2002, it didn’t have any closets — and there was no where to store his prized posession. A few racks in the grain bin in the barn on property did the trick to store the jacket, his clothes, and other items.
But, they were forgotten when Gaines recently moved to the Missouri Veteran’s Home.
Thankfully, his house’s new owner, Matt Oehlschlager, visits Gaines often — and Gaines had a question for him about a month ago.
“And so we talked and talked and so when he left I said, ‘Matt by the way, if you check that out and find that jacket, it sure would be nice.’ In 30 minutes he was back with this jacket. He didn’t even know how much clothes was back there.”
So, the jacket was found and is now safely stored in his daughter’s home. Kenny hopes to use his jacket a tool to teach his grandchildren about the war and his own history of fighting in it.