BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. - A World War II veteran with a very unique story will be honored on Memorial Day in Bonita Springs. Orland Jack Schooley survived being shot down during a bombing run in one of the most devastating attacks in U.S. Air Force history.
On September 27, 1944, a bombing mission into Germany would go down as the highest loss in history for a bomber group in a single day's battle. At the time, Schooley was a staff sergeant.
"B-24 liberator, four engine, I was tail gunner and we got hit," Schooley recalls.
His was one of 20 b-24's to go down in a forest near Kassel, Germany.
"I got blown out of the sky," Schooley said. "We're at 22-thousand feet, and I'm in the seat, not strapped in, and I just hit my button and the chute took me right off the seat."
He was the only one out of a crew of 9 to survive
"I was hit with seven pieces of shrapnel in the right ankle and I was bleeding to death."
But that was only the beginning. He would be captured by German forces.
"I was nine months, a prisoner of war. It put a stamp on me."
An emotional stamp, he wouldn't soon forget. And neither would the family members of the pilot who flew them into battle. Just recently, the Kassel Mission Society out of Michigan and family members found Schooley here in southwest Florida 66 years after the infamous mission over Kassel, grateful to be alive.
Schooley says given the chance, he would do it all again.
"Do it for my country, do what you're supposed to do. I don't run from it, I face it," he said.
Schooley will be recognized for his service at a Memorial Day ceremony at Riverside Park in Bonita Springs Monday at 9am.