Seventy-five years after enlisting in the U.S. Army, Charles Moloney Sr. was honored for his service on Friday.
Moloney, a 95-year-old Gainesville resident who served as an airplane mechanic in World War II, joined the Army about four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
It was his duty as an American, he reasoned.
But it wasn’t until Friday that his five years in the Army — time spent in China, Burma and India — were officially recognized, with Rep. Ted Yoho handing him award after award, along with an American flag that had flown over the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., during a ceremony in Starke, Florida.
“I get a little choked up when I think of the price these people paid for our liberties and freedoms,” said Yoho, a Republican serving North Central Florida’s congressional district. “It’s amazing that you have people willing to serve our nation in that capacity.”
About 50 service members, friends and family sat at the entrance of Camp Blanding in Starke, the site of the former Army base where Maloney enlisted in April 1942.
Maloney smiled as Yoho shook his hand.
In total, Moloney earned six awards: The Presidential Unit Citation, the Good Conduct Medal, Honorable Service Lapel Pin, the American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
Yoho said Moloney is one of the last World War II veterans from Camp Blanding.
When Yoho’s office contacted Moloney to tell him about the award ceremony, Moloney cried. He brought his family to the award ceremony, including his 3-month-old great-great-great-great grandson, Jordan.
After the ceremony, about 12 service members went up to shake Moloney’s hand and thank him for his service. Moloney proudly introduced them to Jordan, who was sitting on his lap, giving a toothless grin and bobbing his head around.
Col. Daniel Johnson, of the Florida Army National Guard, said the service members volunteered to attend the ceremony because they wanted the chance to meet a World War II veteran.
“They saw it as important to shake that man’s hand,” Johnson said. “He is a part of our history.”
Moloney told each service member he met to always follow orders given to them by their commanding officers and to be honorable. He said that was the most valuable lesson he learned during the war — a lesson he passed on to his son, Charles Moloney Jr.
“He told me if I was going to do a job, I should do it well and honorably,” Charles Moloney Jr. said.
The elder Moloney said his life was often saved by God, and he still attends church four to five times a week.
“I was bombed at, and they missed,” Moloney Sr. said. “I know it wasn’t just luck.”
He finally retired from being a mechanic in 1988 and currently lives on a 7-acre farm off Southwest Tower Road. He said, in 75 years, much remains the same.
“The world hasn’t changed,” he said. “The only thing that’s changed is me. I’m older.”
Contact Meryl Kornfield at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at @MerylKornfield
Charles D. Moloney, a 95-year-old World War II veteran, shakes the hand of Rep. Ted Yoho during a ceremony honoring Moloney's service during WWII at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center on Friday. Moloney enlisted in the U.S. Army on April 4,1942, and received six medals on Friday that he hadn't received after leaving the U.S. Army.