MURRELLS INLET, S.C. (WCSC) - A Veterans Day celebration came a day early for a 99-year-old hospitalized World War II Veteran.
Clarence “Chuck” Tompkins, 99, served in Darby’s Rangers of the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division.
Tompkins was recovering at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital after having a pacemaker installed.
During his stay, hospital spokesperson Dawn Bryant said Tompkins shared firsthand accounts of serving in the Battle of the Bulge and the first wave of D-Day in Normandy.
Tompkins was wounded in France and then severely wounded by machine-gun fire during the Battle of the Bulge.
When Tidelands Health’s Dr. Richard Cutchin learned of his service, he worked with the hospital’s leaders to show special appreciation for Thompkins’ service.
Cutchin, senior leaders and Tompkins’ care team had an informal bedside ceremony for the hospital’s most decorated veteran patient Wednesday.
“His story is amazing. We have to do something for him. I just felt compelled,” Cutchin said. “We have very few of these veterans still with us. Each and every one of them deserves every bit of gratitude, honor and respect that we can bestow on them.”
Tidelands Health’s Dr. Henry Lau, a retired colonel with the U.S. Air Force, swapped his white coat for his military full dress uniform to present Tompkins with an encased American flag, Bryant said.
Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health and also a decorated veteran, joined the celebration virtually and penned a special note and gifted a military challenge coin.
Nurse Samantha Saunders said he brought war stories to life.
“It is just a treat to take care of him,” she said. “He’s so positive and just talks to you about everything. He’s sharp and has a wonderful memory. He is quite lovely.”
Tompkins’ daughter Pat McCormick, who was in on the surprise presentation, brought 8x10 glossy photos made when he served as honorary grand marshal of the Myrtle Beach Military Appreciation Days parade in May. Tompkins signed one for everyone who had a hand in this special moment.
“They have been absolutely magnificent,” McCormick said. “Every day since we came into the ER – it’s been phenomenal. They are so caring. I feel like we have a big family here now.”
During Tompkins’ service, he earned nearly a dozen special decorations, including two Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two medals from France, including the Medal of the Jubilee of Liberty.
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