KRUM — Harold Lair got lucky during his service in World War II.
The 90-year-old Navy veteran was stationed in Kodiak, Alaska, as an aircraft mechanic who occasionally manned the guns on planes as sailors kept watch for Japanese enemies along the Aleutian Islands.
Before one of the daily patrols, Lair was asked to fill in for another sailor who was on emergency leave. Just before the plane was set to take off, the man returned and took back his post, leaving Lair firmly on the ground.
“And that was the last we saw of them,” Lair said, going on to say the plane was lost somewhere over the Bering Sea. “No one knows if they were shot down or just ran out of fuel.”
Lair, known to friends and family as “Pappy,” reminisced with his daughter, Cindy, on a blustery Friday morning as they sat bundled up along the 50-yard line at Krum ISD’s Bobcat Stadium. He was one of dozens of local veterans honored during the district’s annual Veterans Day of Remembrance.
The event included performances from several student groups and a presentation of colors from local Boy Scouts. Afterward, veterans and active duty military members were invited to a complimentary lunch at the high school.
Superintendent Cody Carroll said the day of remembrance, celebrated ahead of Veterans Day on Sunday, serves a core mission in education: to make sure students understand the sacrifices that were made for their freedom.
“We want to honor you in every way we can today,” he said.
Larry Patterson, a retired brigadier general in the Texas Army National Guard, gave the keynote address during the assembly and encouraged students to research family members who served.
“These service members came from all walks of life, but they share several fundamental qualities, qualities that each of us should strive for,” he said. “They possess courage, pride, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity.”
Selflessness was one of the main reasons Lair joined the military when he turned 17, he said.
“I just wanted to help any way I could,” he said.
Lair said he did a lot of growing up during his service and emerged with a marketable skill by the end of it. When he was discharged at age 21, he got a job as a machinist, a career he worked in for 40 years.
Like most in his generation, Lair started a family after the war. He married his wife, Barbara, in 1950 and they honeymooned at Niagara Falls in upstate New York. Lair said the captain of the boat in Niagara Falls approached them and congratulated them on their nuptials.
“How did he know we just got married?” Lair remembers Barbara asking him.
“What other dumb people do this in January?” he replied.
Lair’s sense of service stayed with him throughout the years. He joined a volunteer fire department and later became a school crossing guard in Krum. He said he enjoyed talking to the kids and giving them high-fives. In return, they would give him birthday cards — and sometimes an extra cookie with a little bit of fuzz on it from being stuffed in a pocket earlier in the day.
Barbara passed away last month after 68 years of marriage, and Lair said he’s been adjusting to life without her. He said he spends his days tidying up his house and working in his yard. Sometimes he’ll even mow the neighbor’s yard, his daughter Cindy said.
“He’s almost 91 and he never stops,” she said, adding that she’s always been proud of her dad for his service.
Lair said he enjoys going to veteran events like Krum’s Day of Remembrance because it’s nice to see so many people respecting one another, something he thinks is sorely lacking in today’s society.
“It’s amazing how everyone comes up to shake your hand and say thanks,” Lair said. “It’s a good teaching opportunity.”