World II veteran Les Thompson talks about his military service, life.
Following the Memorial Day ceremony at Prairie Lawn Cemetery, the Veteran’s Room of Memorial Hall in downtown Wellington was open and Les Thompson, a 96-year-old veteran of World War II was there.
When asked if he would stand in a picture, Thompson, wearing a military hat and suit and necktie, pushed his walker aside and stood before his old Army uniform as well as Air Force, Navy and Marine uniforms donated by his sons and a grandson who followed him into military service.
When going out in public, Thompson usually wears a ball cap identifying him as a World War II veteran and on every such outing, people come up to him and thank him for his service, he said. On Dec. 7 of last year, the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he was the only World War II veteran at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita. High school ROTC students who posed with him for a picture were in awe of this living World War II veteran.
Thompson has been invited to be present at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Museum and Library this June 5 and 6 for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
Born with the help of a midwife on his family farm in Rome, Thompson was 20-years-old when he was drafted into the Army in 1942.
An Army medic, stationed in the Pacific during World War II, Thompson traveled by ship to islands as part of a hospital platoon, caring for wounded patients. He is low-key about his time there.
“I just knew I had stuff to do,” he said, from his home.
He recalled one time, being onboard a troop ship when Japanese dive bombers sunk the ship behind his. Gunners from the ship Thompson was on downed the bombers and their ship was preserved.
“We scrambled for the shore,” he said.
His girlfriend, Pearl, from back home, took a train to Marysville, California when he was stationed there at Camp Beale and they married on July 25, 1943. They were married for more than 50 years when she died in the ‘90s.
After being discharged from the service in 1946, Thompson returned to Sumner County, farmed a few years, then worked at a full service gas station in Wellington. One day, the Wellington police chief came by the station and told Thompson he should apply for a job with the police department.
“The chief of police -- he was for the veterans,” Thompson said, adding that in those days, there were several veterans on the police department.
After 22 years with the department, Thompson retired in 1973 with the rank of assistant chief of police. During the 1980s and ‘90s, he served on the Wellington City Council.
In the many years since his military service, Thompson has stayed active with the VFW, having served in such capacities as post commander, district commander and Sgt. of Arms. On the wall of his living room, there is a document which reads, “In appreciation of meritorious and distinguished service, furthering the objects and ideals of the VFW of the United States.”
The document is placed alongside plaques commending Thompson for service as a city employee, as a city council member and three group pictures from various years with the police department.
His nephew, Curt Thompson, who Les Thompson helped raise, said, “I’m just thankful he helped me when I was young. He gave me a good representation to follow. We wouldn’t have the country we have if not for the veterans.”
“I done my job,” Les Thompson said. “I just done what I was told to do.”