After earning Ph.D. at 89, community calls Austin WWII vet a 'national treasure'

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Wendell Mayes doesn't get around as quickly as he use to, but that doesn't slow him down.

It's Friday and he's ready for social hour. It's something that happens every day at The Brookdale Westlake Hills senior living community in Austin. But today, its a special occasion: The center is celebrating Veterans Day.

Mayes is a World War II veteran and some people at the home have dubbed him a "national treasure."

Mayes was 18 years old when he joined the Navy in 1942.

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"They trained me to take care of radar sets and airplanes so that's what I did," Mayes said.

Mayes went to sea aboard the Yorktown in October two years later. His service, though, didn't come without a cost.

"There were three of us taking care of the night-fighter radar, a bomb hit the Yorktown and killed two of our three replacements," Mayes remembered.

After Yorktown, Wendell returned to Austin to begin his education.

He has a bachelor's degree, two master's and now a Ph.D. from Walden University.

Mayes became Dr. Wendell Mayes at 89-years-old.

"I got a standing ovation from all of the faculty up on the stage," he said. "There were about 4,000 people."
 
If you ask Mayes the meaning of Veterans Day, he said it's honoring those who served. He has no regrets, and if he could go back in time, he said he'd serve our country again.

"What we did when called upon to do what we had to do to protect our country, we stepped up to the plate," he said.

But for now, he's happy being known as the guy at the Brookdale Westlake Hills senior living community who made a grand sacrifice.