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MILLERSBURG -- When Harold Mullet went on the Honors Flight last May to Washington, D.C., to see the memorials and Arlington National Cemetery, the 90-year-old veteran of two wars said he was treated like a hero.
"I got letters from congressmen, senators, kids. They carried me off the plane onto the tour bus, where I got to sit up front," Mullet said. "We had a police escort for us from Baltimore to D.C. I felt like a real hero.
"But when we got to Arlington National Cemetery and saw the names of all the soldiers who paid the ultimate price for our freedom," Mullet continued, his eyes welling with tears, "they're the real heroes."
Mullet was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, at the tail end of World War II, serving as a radar technician engineer in the Army Air Corps at a B-29 outfit.
He enlisted as a 16-year-old in 1943 because he wanted to "do something to help my country," he said.
Mullet received an honorary high school diploma from West Holmes two years ago. "My son was supposed to take me to a surprise ceremony but he forgot," Mullet said. "I read about it the next day in the paper."
Mullet was injured in Japan when a typhoon hit while he was on guard duty, blowing down the shack in which he was stationed.
"I think I broke four or five ribs," he said. "The shack got blown down. I had to hang onto the elephant grass to keep from being blown away. The good Lord was with us out there
"Some of the aircraft was damaged and you could see they were almost being blown away, the wind was so strong," he continued. "The quonset hut toppled like an accordion. They were being held by a single rope."
Mullet said he went to the medic, who taped him up and sent him back to guard duty.
"It hurt more when they took the tape off," he recalled. "It took hair and skin. It was painful."
But, he survived until 1949 when he got sent home.
After a two-week debriefing and decompression session in California, he and a couple other buddies took a cab to a bar in San Francisco where, surprisingly to Mullet and friends, the men dressed like women, which led to a fight and a visit from the Military Police, and another two weeks stay in California. "I guess we weren't ready to be released on the public," he said with a laugh.
Before being discharged, Mullet was asked to re-enlist for another six-year stint. That was not in his plans, but he did sign up for the non-active reserves.
He came home with hopes of collecting his $20 a week pension from the government for a year, drinking a little beer and enjoy a little vacation.
"I wasn't home two days when Bill Patton came knocking on my door and asked me to come to work for him in the oil fields," Mullet said. "I guess I was on vacation long enough.
"We were considered like the Minutemen militia, who dropped everything when they were called to serve," he added. And in 1950, Mullet was called to Langley, Va., as the Korean War broke out.
He was working in the oil fields when he got the telegram to report to Langley. He had 10 days to report.
He arrived in Langley with a group of other soldiers who received the same telegraph he did. The government was not ready for this group and dispatched them to various places, Mullet winding up in Cape Cod, installing radar on the wings of B-17 bombers.
Mullet didn't even get a uniform and worked in his gabardines. The commanding officer on his post kept saying, "Mullet, we've got to do something about your uniform."
He returned home to Holmes County and continued working in the oil fields. He married and had three sons.
He lost his wife in 1996 and also was hospitalized with some serious health issues. He had surgery and was unable to walk. His sons suggested a nursing home, but a nurse friend of his wife's, Phyllis Jenkins, decided to take Harold in and nurse him back to health. Jenkins, an LPN, who worked with his wife as a nurse for more than 20 years.
He was walking within a month with the help of a walker. He currently lives with his care taker, Jenkins, in a modest home on County Road 58.
Mullet finds great joy and a sense of independence in driving around in his brand new Kubota ATV, which he operates with hand gears. Last August, he was ticketed for driving his ATV in Millersburg, where there is a law forbidding those vehicles on the streets of the village.
"I am the proud owner of a Kubota, a 90-year-old crippled veteran of two wars. I purchased my Kubota because it was the safest vehicle I found to be able to go safely to town and get groceries and my medicine that I need," Mullet wrote in a letter to the editor in January.
Mullet doesn't think it is fair that the village of Millersburg tickets him when Amish drive tractors with trailers that are far more dangerous.
Millersburg Police Chief S. Thomas Vaughn said he is not trying to pick a fight with a 90-year old. He said his police are simply enforcing the law. "I don't see any good that can come out of revisiting the policy," Vaughn said.
Council member Kelly Hoffee asked why the village allows vehicles pulling flatbeds with lawn chairs hauling Amish down to WalMart.
"I think that is not safe," Hoffee said.
Vaughn pointed out that safe and legal are two different things. "The prosecutor's office says that is not in violation of the law and there is nothing we can do," he said.
Village solicitor Bob Hines says the law is complicated and confusing and he shared a letter he wrote outlining the issue, which he shared with council.
"There are other reasons you can restrict the use of such vehicles in town," Hines said, "If you are not using the vehicle for agricultural reasons, it has to be fully licensed. That is my legal opinion. Unfortunately, that's not the same opinion of the county prosecutor."
Vaughn said he believes it would be best to get an opinion from the Attorney General.
Mayor Jeff Huebner said that the village will leave things as they are, for now.
Reporter Kevin Lynch can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.