BEDFORD, MI (WTOL) - America is losing more and more World War II veterans every day. Out of the 16 million Americans who served their country in the war, only a half million remain. Those Greatest Generation vets are now in their 90s and older.
One local WWII veteran continues to serve, and area children are the beneficiaries of his continued service.
Several days a week during the school year, you'll find 97-year-old Army veteran Claude Cawood in his comfort zone. That's a classroom filled with kids at Jackman Road Elementary School. The Bedford man is still teaching and mentoring.
Cawood worked in education his whole life. Why is he still mentoring now? For one thing, he said, being around the youth keeps you young. But here's another reason.
"People that have helped me during the time I was growing up, they gave time and I remember that. These people took the time to help someone and if I would be just a little part of that, not only do I feel better but it's enjoyable," Cawood said.
His grandson says interacting with the kids keeps his grandfather young.
"I think that's what keeps him going and young -- the youth," said Dan Chambers. "I mean 51 years reffing high school football, and involved in Sea Cadets with me, he's been here. I would like to think I'd like to be just like him when I get to that age."
Jackman Elementary Principal Sherry Farran appreciates the life lessons that Cawood brings to her students.
"He's been coming here 15 years and in a lot of different roles -- reading with students, mentoring them, some days if someone's walking down the hallway he'll explain how to help a young lady with her coat. He gives all kinds of life lessons in addition to reading and comprehensive learning about history. (He shows) what it's like to be a veteran and give back to your community," she said
Last summer, Cawood was invited to Grayling for camp with the Michigan National Guard. He enlisted in the Army in 1939 and was at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. His job was firing artillery in the South Pacific. While at camp, Cawood got to pull the trigger one more time.
We call them the Greatest Generation. But Claude, being modest, doesn't think that's him at all.
"The ones that gave more than I ever did and people don't even think about is the people that were drafted and left college, jobs, left families," Cawood said.