Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System
World War II Veteran grateful he served
When Charles Johnson joined the Navy in the summer of 1943, he didn’t have any idea of what to expect or where he might go. He was 18, lived in New Orleans, Louisiana, and felt like signing up was the thing to do. Both of his parents were deceased, his father when he was 10 and his mother four years later. And though he lived with his grandmother, he felt he pretty much raised himself.
“I had two little sisters that kept my grandma pretty busy,” Johnson said. “So, I did my own thing. And when I could sign up to serve, I did.”
After training in Great Lakes, Johnson shipped out to Okinawa. He was a cook by rate, but he said there wasn’t a lot of cooking once he arrived in Okinawa.
“I didn’t like being on the ship,” Johnson said. “I kept getting seasick. When we got to Okinawa, they assigned me to work with some Seabee units (Construction Battalions), and that suited me a lot better. In the field though, we ate canned foods and our water was rationed.
“Working with the Seabees was good,” Johnson recalls. “Except for the tents we slept in. They were okay sometimes, but when it rained, the water flooded in and there we were laying in a pool of water. I still remember what that was like.”
When the war ended in 1945, Johnson had advanced to the rate of Petty Officer 2nd Class. He returned to New Orleans and decided to use the GI Bill to go to college. He said he made a good living for many years as a general contractor, building and renovating houses. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed his family home and he ended up leaving the area and settling in Mobile, Alabama.
Johnson, 94, receives his health care at the Mobile VA Outpatient Clinic, which is part of the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System.
“The VA gives me everything I need,” Johnson said. “Medicine, my walker, this cane, hearing aids and even batteries for the hearing aids.
“This new clinic is so nice and clean and convenient,” he continued. “And people here are always asking me how they can help. Can you believe that?
“I’ve been using VA a while,” Johnson said. “Even with the high demand, I still see a lot of improvements.”
Johnson said he and his wife of 47 years have enjoyed a good life. They worked hard, have traveled the world, and have seen places most people only dream of.
“I have found that no matter where you are or what you are doing, people are the same. They want to create a better life, for themselves and for their families. We are all the same.”