MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) - Chief Petty Officer Sherwin Callander helped with recovery efforts after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, and years later landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, but says there's an even greater reason why he wanted a flag pole installed outside Dublin Village in Madison. “That flag means everything to me," says Callander.
Where he grew up, the American flag wasn't flying on the pole. He was born in Canada, but his parents naturalized to the United States when he was three years old. “When the guy came from the Navy, he said, you’ll have a girl in every port. I said, sign me up," he joked.
Sherwin has more remarkable war stories than there are threads in the flag. One of his most terrifying was being a part of a supply mission in the Pacific the day before the Pearl Harbor attack. “We got in the next day and I had to help clean up the mess, get dead bodies out of the water," he says.
Callander took part in three invasions in the European theater before World War II ended. “My prayers were answered. I never got a scratch," says the 96 year old.
He didn't get a purple heart, but he won something that meant much more, United States citizenship. “I’ve been in so many countries being in the Navy, and I seen them countries. They don’t have the freedom we have," he says.
Everywhere he lived, following the war, had a flag on display, except for Dublin Village in Madison. When he requested a pole to be installed at the government supported housing complex, he got a surprising response. “They told me, you can't do it. I said why not? I seen red when they answered me. They said we might hurt someone’s feelings. I said, hurt their feelings to have our flag flying? I said I fought for this flag. There’s so many men that died for this flag," says Callander.
Proving persistence is as powerful of a weapon as any, Sherwin requested a pole for eight years. When management changed recently, he finally got his long awaited answer. “Yes, we’ll get you a flag pole," he says.
Over the weekend, a group of retired military personnel from various branches, dressed in WWII era naval uniforms, performed a flag ceremony for Sherwin's pole. “It just brought tears to my eyes, seeing Old Glory," says the veteran.
Now Sherwin can go to bed each night, knowing the flag that he fought for, and his friends died for, flies high and proud for all to see. “I can look right out my window and see her," he says.
Next month, for the first time since the Pearl Harbor attack, Sherwin and his granddaughter will return to Pearl Harbor. He says it may bring up some painful memories, but he couldn't be more excited to take the trip.