White House ‘Salutes’ WWII Veterans Who Survived Spanish Flu, Great Depression, and Coronavirus

World War II Navy veteran Bill Kelly and Army veteran William Lapschies.
Defense.gov

The White House “saluted” two Oregon World War II veterans who collectively survived the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, and now the coronavirus in a stunning feat that can give us all hope.

Bill Kelly, 95, and William Lapschies, 104, got the virus and have since recovered — an amazing feat given that people their age are more likely to suffer complications from the virus, sometimes even fatal ones.

Kelly lives with his five-year-old and 11-month-old great-grandsons, his granddaughter Rose Ayers-Etherington, and her husband, Isaac, in McMinnville, Oregon. The 95-year-old complained of having a low-grade fever in mid-March and tested positive for the coronavirus on St. Patrick’s Day.

During World War II, he spent two years with the Navy in the South Pacific. The war ended while he was stationed in Guam, so he was discharged soon after. Kelly says those experiences during wartime helped him get through his current bout of isolation with the coronavirus.

”We learned quite a bit of discipline there, so, yes, it helped a lot. I had plenty of time to rest, which I needed,” he said. ”I was in my little room here, and my two little great-grandsons were outside it playing. I could hear them, and that helped a lot.”

Lapschies was two years old when the Spanish Flu hit the U.S., and while he did not catch the flu himself, the illness killed at least 50 million people around the world, including 675,000 Americans. Twenty-five years later, Lapschies was drafted into the Army close to the end of World War II.

Jamie Yutzie, his granddaughter, said he does not often talk about his service, but did mention he worked as a heavy equipment dispatcher in the Aleutian Islands off the Alaskan coast. Lapschies went back to being an ordinary citizen once the war was over.

After having two daughters, eight grandchildren, and many more great-grandchildren, the 103-year-old became a resident of the Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ Home in Lebanon, Oregon, as of 2019. As of Sunday, 18 residents have tested positive for coronavirus at his facility, where there are about 140 residents.

Local officials say three people have died from the virus, but 13 people, including Lapschies, survived. Doctors said his symptoms were mild, and he never developed any respiratory issues.

By April 1, his 104th birthday, doctors declared him free of the coronavirus.

”I finally made it,” the 104-year-old said during his birthday party.

Both veterans received messages of support from the White House after learning of their amazing recoveries.

“America salutes you!” the White House tweeted.

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