100-year-old veteran had seen it all – except this

Digital First

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Turns out it’s still possible to be surprised, even after 100 years on the planet.

Jewell “Joe” Horning, Jr., a World War II veteran, turned 100 years old Saturday “surrounded” only virtually by his family – but with a lot else he never expected. 

Horning’s day started with aides ensuring he paid close attention to ABC27’s “We Salute You” segment (an ongoing series honoring veterans), which featured Horning – from the station’s Harrisburg studio, anchor Michella Drapac wished Horning a happy 100th birthday. From Jacksonville, Fla, Horning’s daugher, Paula Horning, had contacted ABC27’s Ali Lanyon weeks earlier to coordinate that. 

“It just broke my heart knowing he was going to be alone there on his 100th birthday,” Paula Horning said. 

Later, at the Willow Valley senior living facility where Horning lives, aides wheeled him outside to a salute from the Red Rose Veterans Honor Guard – exactly 10 people, the most allowed by the facility because of COVID-19 guidelines, although organizers said dozens more had volunteered to go. Horning had served in the Marine Corps in the Pacific during World War II and later, in the Reserves after the war, commanded his own unit.  

“It’s something Marines always do,” said Chris Mattson, a retired Marine Corps captain and leader of the honor guard. “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” 

Mattson said the honor guard more often finds itself at funerals. That’s an honor too, he said, but being able to celebrate the life of a veteran who was born in 1920, and is still living, is a rarer treat. 

Joe Horning seemed surprised. 

“I thought there might be a little something, you know, have an extra cup of coffee or something,” he said of his expectations for the day. “But all of this… All these people!” 

And he didn’t seem to understand why everyone involved had gone to such lengths. 

“I’ve never had so much attention and so many people involved,” he said. “For me! What did I ever do to deserve this?” 

“He’s always been that way,” Paula Horning said. “A very humble guy.”

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