Mickey Starling: Greene Publishing, Inc.
The name of one of the 20 latest inductees into the Florida Veteran’s Hall of Fame is fondly familiar to Madison County residents. Hometown hero, Bernard E. Wilson, was posthumously awarded the honor on Monday, Nov. 27 at the Florida Capitol. He was nominated by Madison resident, Major John Haynes, a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
During WWII, Wilson was a B-29 gunner, stationed on the island of Tinian. This location stored the atomic bombs that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Wilson enlisted at the age of 17 and his distinguished service as a B-29 bomber took place while he was still a teenager. He is credited with flying 14 combat missions and two POW supply missions.
Wilson flew with the Sixth Bombing Group, a team he was particularly proud of. He remembered them best for having flown the longest combat mission in all of WWII. He flew in the last combat mission of the war, as well as flying in a show of force mission over Tokyo on the day that the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed, ending the war. This was done so that if the Japanese had a change of heart, they would know the US stood ready to reengage.
Before leaving Tinian Island, Wilson joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, groups he remained active in the rest of his life. He never lost his passion for veterans and educating others about America. This was clearly evident through the years as Wilson chaired numerous patriotic committees, donated countless flags, lectured at local schools, presided over patriotic events and erected many flagpoles throughout the community. His activities garnered him an appreciation award for civic activities from Gov. C. Farris Bryant in 1962.
Along with many other civic accomplishments, Wilson worked with the Boy Scouts for over 50 years. He also worked as the Madison County Veteran’s Service Officer for 23 years. From 1991 to 1995, he partnered with North Florida Junior College to record five interviews with POWs from WWII. These are still available at both NFCC and the National POW Museum in Andersonville, Ga.
Madison lost a valuable servant and citizen when Wilson passed away in 2009. Rarely is a community blessed with one individual who works so tirelessly for the good of the community. It’s easy to see why many remember him as the most patriotic person they ever met.