PORTLAND, Tenn. (WTVF) — For the first time in decades, a World War II veteran won't be able to spend his Memorial Day at his longtime home. It caught fire last week and was a total loss.
"I sat watching television and all of a sudden I smell something. I ask my son, he was there, do you have anything on the stove? He said no I don’t reckon," said Bill Bradley. "He looked around said get out of here! And the blaze was coming up big right behind me."
The 96-year-old and his son escaped, and not a moment too soon. "I called the fire department and they all come, but it was too late, it was already gone," said Bradley.
Charred medals and uniforms still sitting the remains of his home tell the story of a man who has survived many close calls. "I’ve had my helmet shot off, I’ve been in a fox hole where two other guys got killed but it didn’t touch me," he said.
And while the collectibles may be forever ruined, thankfully not the collector. "It is tough, but it didn’t burn me," Bradley said with a chuckle.
Private First Class Bill Bradley landed on Omaha Beach, spent days behind enemy lines, fought in the Battle of the Bulge and has the scars to prove it. "Shrapnel hit my legs," he said.
But one of his proudest achievements came decades after the war when he was able to buy back his old family farm in Portland. "It’s sentimental to me," said Bradley.
So what can we do to help a D-Day survivor get back on his feet? Well, Bill does have one thing he wants more than anything else -- to rebuild. The problem is, he didn't have home insurance and can't afford to rebuild out of pocket. "Oh it’d mean a lot, but see the economy? Now, you can’t buy me anything but everything’s scarce," he said.
So his family set up a fund called the "Billy Bradley Fund" at Farmer's Bank. The hope is, for a man who risked so much for his country, his country will answer the call. "You know -- home is home," said Bradley.
Bill is turning 97 Sunday, and in lieu of gifts, would appreciate any donations to his fund at Farmer's Bank.