Orval Mullen went on an Honor Flight in October to visit his World War II memorial. (Photo courtesy of Judy Wieging)
Orval Mullen went on an Honor Flight in October to visit his World War II memorial. (Photo courtesy of Judy Wieging)
VAN WERT – It’s been less than two weeks since a Van Wert County resident returned from the most recent Honor Flight, a moment in time that Orval Mullen says restored his faith from all of the “lucky” moments that he has been subjected to.

Mullen uses the word, “lucky,” to describe three different times that his life was literally spared from dying. Twice was during action in the Army’s Fourth Division Infantry in World War II and another was as a civilian while working at a stone quarry.

Mullen was first wounded on July 7, 1944 at St. Lo, France when a shell exploded about six feet from his head. He received a deep gash in one hip and was hospitalized for recovery.

On another dangerous engagement during the night his outfit entered Ansbach, Germany. He noted that machine gunfire was heavy despite the darkness and the next morning they were counterattacked by the Germans and lost all but two tanks.

In addition to the hit at St. Lo, Mullen was hit again at the Battle of the Bulge. As a result of his wounds, he received two purple heart awards. Other medals he received included Good Conduct, Combat Infantryman Badge, Presidential Unit Citation and ETO Ribbon with Arrowhead and four battle stars.

In addition, he also received the Bronze Star Medal and citation for “keeping communications open when it was almost impossible, which saved an entire battalion from being trapped and taken prisoner.”

“My responsibility was keeping communication between headquarters company and front lines and outposts,” Mullen explained.

The Germans would cut the lines and wait until we tried to repair them during the night and then they would try to pick us off,” continued Mullen.

The third occasion in which Mullen’s life was placed in jeopardy was when he returned as a civilian and was married to his wife, Luella. On one occasion, when he was working at a stone quarry, dynamite exploded claiming three out of four lives. Mullen’s life was the only one that was spared.

One thing Mullen never realized when he was discharged from World War II on Sept. 25, 1945, was that he was jumping into another battle, this time a lifetime battle in an attempt to secure certain badges were seemingly being withheld from him.

In fact, it wasn’t until he contacted Ohio Congressman Bob Latta that justice was finally served. After waiting for 72 years, Latta was able to secure the remaining medals and present them to him at the local American Legion on his 95th birthday on Feb. 22, 2017.

Without doubt, one of Mullen’s biggest rewards for service was the opportunity to travel on the most recent Honor Flight from Fort Wayne to Washington and back on Oct. 25 of this year.

With his daughter, Judy Wieging, serving as his guardian for the day trip, Mullen joined other flight members at Fort Wayne International Airport at 6 a.m. for breakfast and his first-ever trip to Washington, D.C.

Some of the trip’s highlights included the World War II Museum, Lincoln Memorial, Women’s War Museum, Arlington, Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and John Glenn’s Grave.

Both Wieging and Mullen were very impressed with the way the trip was organized, the reality of seeing Washington in person and the sacredness of the monuments.

“I know that his faith was restored as a result of that trip,” said Wieging, “especially when all of the children came up and thanked him for what he had done.

Mullen noted that between June 6, 1944 and May 8, 1945, there were a total of 34,309 casualties in his company.

“Here I am, 95 years old and I’m still here,” said Mullen. “I’ve been very lucky.”