WASHINGTON, D.C. - You could call World War II veteran Al Pellatt Jr. a ladies man, or even the life of the party, but mostly--his family will tell you--he's a hero.
"He fought in Iwo Jima in World War II, and this is very important to him," said Dave Ratliff, Pellatt's son-in-law.
Pellatt asked Ratliff to travel with him on the Never Forgotten Honor Flight to Washington, DC, last Monday. The unlikely duo has become pretty close in the nearly 14 years they've known each other.
"We have become very best buddies," said Ratliff. "There's a 30-year difference, but he is one of my best buddies."
Pellatt and Ratliff live in Stevens Point, a long way from the island of Iwo Jima, where, in 1945, Pellatt served in the Navy right before the island was secured. Pellatt worked as a Seabee there, in the construction battalion, setting up warehouses.
"I felt like I did what I was supposed to do to serve my country," said Pellatt.
The battle of Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest of the war, leaving thousands dead. Pellatt vividly remembers the experience during and after the battle.
So getting to see the memorial honoring those who fell there, and knowing he was lucky to be able to see it, meant a lot.
"We did a good job, for one thing," Pellatt said. "It was a dirty job--they were dug in, you had to dig them out. We lost more causalities there then the Japanese did. When you saw the flag go up, it was quite a thrill."
Pellatt's family said he saw some horrific sights overseas and still deals with post-traumatic stress disorder after all these years. But being able to visit DC with Pellatt, to help with the healing process, meant a lot to his best buddy.
"He could have chosen a lot of different people, because he's got a lot of family," said Ratliff. "So he asked me to come along, and I'm very proud of that."
Pellatt may be getting older, but the thanks he still receives after all these years will never really get old.
"Means that they appreciated what we've done," Pellat said. "It's a good feeling."