Community celebrates, honors WWII veteran on his 93rd birthday

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Paul Phillips turns 93 years old. (Photo: WWAY)

LELAND, NC (WWAY) — Veterans, first responders, and community members in Leland came together to surprise a World War II veteran on his 93rd birthday.

On Friday, more than 100 cars filled with friends, family, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization set out on the ultimate birthday mission.

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Paul Phillips is a veteran who served on the USS North Carolina. He fought in WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. After serving in the military, Phillips worked a security guard at the Cameron Art Museum for more than 20 years.

“These men and women have been through more than most people can possibly imagine,” VFW Commander Gerald Decker said. “And we owe them our dedication and our respect.”

His friend and former coworker Sandi Vineyard says he’s the kindest man she’s ever met.

“We all love him,” Vineyard said. “Anybody who knew Mr. Paul just loved him.”

Just for his birthday, the Cameron Art Museum unveiled a portrait of Phillips during a special ceremony. Following that, the parade began. Dozens drove by, waving and holding up signs.

Leland’s Mayor Brenda Bozeman was so moved, she declared today as Paul Phillips Day.

“It just overwhelms my heart,” Bozeman said. “When I see people, our VFW, our American Legion, when I see them out here working hard in this hot sun to honor one of their own.”

If the goal was to make Phillips feel special, it was very apparent that it was accomplished.

“I was very surprised,” Phillips said. 

He says it was good to see some of the people he sacrificed for come out and honor him.