WARNER, Okla. — Charles McGrew insists he's "not a hero."
But the Webbers Falls native and Warner resident was a vital part of the World War II effort as he "fixed airplanes and kept them flying" for the U.S. Navy.
"All I did was work and took advantage of my mechanical ability. I knew about nuts and bolts and all of that good stuff," he said. "I never considered myself important. I was just a worker who worked hard and put those airplanes back in the air."
As McGrew gets ready to celebrate his 96th birthday on Saturday, he looks back on his military life with plenty of memories. He entered the war in 1942, started going to gunnery school at Naval Air Station Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida, before being switched to the mechanical work in 1943.
He maintained the hope of getting to be part of the fighting.
"I guess they had a place for me somewhere else, and I didn't fuss with them," McGrew said. "If I shouldn't have been so mechanically inclined, I would've gotten to go where the fighting was going on. I really miss doing that. I had a mentality of getting a hold of those people and shooting them. But I know if it wasn't for me, those planes wouldn't have gotten off the ground.
"I had the ability to fire machine guns in flight and hit a target. I even went to a pastor to volunteer to go into the war zone, but they wouldn't let me go. But I had a good military service."
McGrew considers himself an Okie because he and his family moved from Oklahoma to California during the Dust Bowl. He has a picture of his family when he was 16 years old. McGrew moved back to Oklahoma in 1945.
"I've loved every minute of it," he said.
Still, when McGrew, his family and friends gather at the Warner Senior Citizen Center on Eighth Street at 1-3 p.m. Saturday to celebrate his birthday, he looks back on his life and feels "blessed."
He said his wife of 73 years, Mary Louise, and his four daughters and their families are other blessings in his life. He even keeps a framed wall hanging in his home that he proudly shows to any visitor as it has photos of him while still in the Navy, and his wife, along with their marriage license.
"(Mary Louise) is the light of my life," he said. "She's had that dementia. I remember when I saw this little black-eye girl and I truly lost my heart. I wonder how I got here and through things. I didn't get lucky.
"I'm a firm believer that I've been blessed. I had good people to work with and good bosses. I've had a really good life."