Embrace A Veteran: Navy veteran gives back through Rolling Thunder

Embrace A Veteran: Navy veteran gives back through Rolling Thunder

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Revving up their Harley Road King, Suzuki Boulevard and similar bikes together, you could say Navy veteran George Wald Jr., and Emmitt Jones, the Rolling Thunder SC Chapter 3's sergeant at arms, have a bond.

The two have been riding their bikes across the country for decades.

"Over the years, George took different people from the Grand Strand up to Washington D.C. to the national protest demonstration up there and he took me and the wife Ann up in the 90s, and stayed with his family some," Jones said. "So after going up there and seeing it and seeing how awesome it was, we saw that there was a need for a chapter down here. So we started a chapter down here in 2005 and it's been going strong ever since."

They work to remind people about the prisoners of war and those missing in action by putting up memorials in War Bird Park and dozens of flags across the country. In addition, they raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for veteran-related organizations.

Jones and his wife's motivation for all of it is the person they nominated for WMBF's feature.

"Oh yes, everybody loves George; everybody loves George," Jones said. "He's got a good attitude, a good heart. He's helped people out over the years and he's just an outstanding fellow."

Wald was just as honored for the recognition as he is getting to help other veterans. He said his time in the Navy is indelible. He served as a third-class petty officer and focused on maintenance.

There were some training missions he remembered as being specifically fun.

"It was we saw dolphins and we all thought it was a shark, and we damn near broke our necks trying to get back aboard ship real quick," Wald said. "But we finally realized it was no threat, so we enjoyed ourselves and that was basically the first cruise."

Then there were others that were horrifying, like the time a jet didn't have enough speed and sank off the ship's runway. A helicopter came to the rescue.

"And next thing we know is the helicopter lost power, landed right on top of the pilot. Within 30 seconds it was gone, underwater. Even the guys on the helicopter, they all died because they went like 30 seconds. You couldn't see nothing; it was all gone," he said. "Oh it's just like everything else, it's devastating. You see the guy there one minute; the next thing you know, it's nothing."

His time off the coast of Vietnam included a covert operation.

"We were there for a little over a month patrolling over there off the coast of Vietnam, but to this day 50 years later, we didn't exist. They got no record of our ship while we was there patrolling," Wald said.

Despite dozens of surgeries and multiple heart attacks, the 78-year-young veteran said he'd do it all again, just the same.

"In a heartbeat. I enjoyed the military, I really did. I enjoyed the life. My wife, I wanted to ship over again, she said, 'You do, you're doing it by yourself,' because we had one child and another on its way and I would have been gone two years if I had have shipped over. So I said, 'Yes dear,'" Wald said.

Wald and his wife celebrate 60 years of marriage next week.

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