Raymond Knight couldn't stand the sight of blood as a child.
Leave it to the U.S. Army to assign him to the medics unit in 1942 to take care of wounded comrades and administer first aid.
On Thursday, Honor Flight Kern County paid tribute to the longtime Bakersfield resident, who turns 100 on Sunday. Scores of military veterans, families and friends gathered at American Legion Post 26 in downtown Bakersfield, and sang "Happy Birthday" to the World War II vet.
Asked if he ever expected to make it to the century mark, Knight smiled.
"No," he said in what's left of a Midwestern drawl. "I had no idea."
Knight, who has lived in Kern County since he was honorably discharged from the Army in the fall of 1945, was raised on a farm in Illinois before he was drafted in 1942 and assigned to the 459th Bombardment Group.
He served in Italy for 17 months and was stationed in, of all places, the Galapagos Islands for 13 months.
Now hard of hearing and seemingly a man of few words, Knight let his daughter Patricia Edgerle and other family members help tell his story.
Born Feb. 25, 1918 in Farmer City, Ill., Knight worked on his family farm and other nearby farms before being drafted in early 1942. Only a few weeks had passed since America had entered World War II following the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
He traveled all over the world with the Army, including Panama and Brazil.
He married Mariam Marrs in 1946. The couple will celebrate 72 years of marriage on March 10. The pair have three children, five grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.
Knight worked in a wide variety of occupations before retiring from Caltrans in 1980.
"My dad has never talked much about his Army service," said Patricia Edgerle. Indeed, it wasn't unusual for men of his generation to try to leave the war in the past after returning home.
"He instilled in us a love of the Lord," said Keith Edgerle, Knight's grandson. "He set a great example."
The couple live at Florence Gardens, an independent senior center at Canyon Hills Church. They still attend church services together each Sunday at Canyon Hills.
Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC. ___
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