WWII, Korean War, POW Veteran celebrates 100th birthday


TULLAHOMA, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Tullahoma community celebrated a very special veteran’s birthday Sunday. Not only is this man 100 years old, he’s survived both World War II and the Korean War, and is a two-time Prisoner of War, escaping both times. 

Army Ranger Lieutenant Tommy Gwynn says his birthday this year is much different from 1944 when he was heading into Normandy for what we now remember as D-Day. 

Gwynn has never told anyone what he did during D-Day, as it was classified, but he still gets nightmares. He tells News 2 he was on the sixth wave, and when he got off the boat, he prayed for Jesus to walk with him. He said he prayed three times and on the third, he heard Jesus tell him, “No, you walk with me.”

Gwynn survived D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. While in Normandy, he received a Battle Field Commission to Second Lieutenant, one of the highest honors.

He says he was one of the few surviving rangers who was called back to help fight in the Korean War. While in Korea, Gwynne was captured twice. The second time, he says they attempted to hang him with his belt, but they couldn’t figure it out and that’s when he fought back and got away. 

Gwynn was wounded at least 24 times during both wars. He’s received more than 40 awards including 12 Purple Hearts.

Unfortunately, Gwynn lost all of his awards in a house fire back in 2013. He has had a few replaced since, but they are still working to help get the rest.

Gwynn is now 100 years old, lives on his own, and just had his driver’s license renewed. In his free time, he likes to go grocery shopping and donate food to those in need in the community. Gwynn lost his wife 10 years ago and his daughter lives in a nursing home. He leans on the support of a friend, Rob Norman, who met Gwynn working at a local bank. 

Norman told News 2 he saw Gwynn come in often, and one day asked Gwynn to call him and check in every once in a while. Now Gwynn calls three to four times a week at 7 a.m. to check in.

Gwynn attends First Baptist Church in Tullahoma. The church threw him a big birthday bash Sunday. Gwynn loves to crack jokes with members and tell stories, even though he can be hard to understand. He was born with half a tongue and now has no teeth.

If all of this doesn’t make Gwynn a true American legend, consider how he joined the army in the first place. It was 1940 when he heard about WWII. Gwynn said he told his friends he was going to flip a coin and if it was heads he would join. He flipped it and realized it was a bull-head coin–both sides were heads.

When he went to sign up, he says they told him they didn’t need him. He made them write down his name and add “volunteer” next to it. A year later they came back and said they could use him.

When asked how he survived so much, Gwynn quotes scriptures. 

“John 15:13”, Gwynn said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

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