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Odenville veteran celebrates 100th birthday

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 10:51 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Mr. Jim Hutchins of Odenville is celebrating his 100th birthday today, July 26, 2021. He’s a U.S. army veteran who fought for his country in World War II. There are few men like him left on Earth and we got the chance to visit with him just a few days ago.

At 100 years old life may be a little slower, but Jim Hutchins is still going strong, Still cutting his own grass, riding his tractor and enjoying life from his home in Odenville. But few things mean more than his time in the U.S. Army. Hutchins said, “I wouldn’t take nothing for it, that’s what happened that’s for the good old USA right there.”

Mr. Hutchins is a true American hero, a good man. He worked in a steel mill in construction, was a mounted police officer and loved to square dance with his wife Margaret. “We square dance every night, was it part of the club? Was it a dance club? We was the Curly Q’s - that’s what y’all were called. We belong to to the Q’s and the Eastern Wranglers,” Hutchins said.

Those happy years came long after a difficult beginning “My mother died when I was eight years old. My dad was an alcoholic as kids it was me and my three sisters and her just left on our own.”

An aunt helped keep them together and at the age of 13 Hutchins quit school and went to work on a farm to help his small but close family. “For $10 a month room and board my $10 a month I spent taking care of my sisters. I didn’t know what else to do but other than that we had to stay together.”

Fast forward to his early 20′s, America had just entered World War II. Mr.. Hutchins is working as a welder in Bessemer on a government contracted job.

“They was going to get me deferred and I said no. Well you don’t have to go you’re on a government contract. Anyhow they said you don’t have to go. I said, “Well I’m going anyhow.” Why? Why did you want to do that? “I don’t know just felt it was my duty.”

Hutchins joined the army quickly becoming Staff Sergeant James P Hutchins starting from 1942 to 45 landing at Normandy, fighting at the Battle of the Bulge. “We were in southern France. Our outfit Patton he took us up 100 miles in three days we march day and night for three days sleepwalking. You’ve heard of sleepwalking? You can walk and sleep.”

And when Sgt. Hutchins talks about following those orders it’s as if World War II was just a few years ago.

He tells us about the day his fellow soldiers thought he been shot in battle. “Everybody thought I was here and I did, too. It knocked me down and I jumped up and kept running.” But when they finally made camp that night he realized how close he was to not making it home. “When we put up my tent up half looked like a mosquito net full of holes that was from the bullet holes that’s what knocked me down.”

How did he make it home?

“By the grace of God is all I can say.” And the old gospel song Just a Closer Walk with Thee that helped him through each battle “I didn’t know the words to it but I knew the tune and I just hummed that.”

I asked him one final question, “What advice he has for other generations.” Hutchins said, “The best you can do be good to be good to your fellow man. Just treat everybody the way you would like to be treated and that’s the way I’ve always been.”

So once again happy birthday to Sgt. James P. Hutchins. A true American hero or as most people call him PG or uncle PG.

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