Photo: United States Army/Lettermen of the USA Board Member Colonel John Jones (left) salutes World War II veteran Major Wooten during Wooten’s 102nd birthday celebration on Dec. 8 in Huntsville.
As part of a 102nd birthday celebration, The Lettermen of the USA presented United States Army Private (Ret.) Major Wooten with an autographed Bobby Humphrey University of Alabama football and a hard hat signed by former UA head football coach Gene Stallings on Dec. 8 in Huntsville.
“On behalf of the United States Army and Lettermen of the USA, it gives me great pride to wish you a Happy Birthday and present you with this autographed Bobby Humphrey football,” said U.S. Army Col-onel John Jones. “Serviceman to serviceman, this is a great honor.”
Even though Wooten’s first name is Major, he only achieved the rank of private during his military service.
“It could be a little confusing because I was never a major in the army,” he said. “There were times when I got into trouble with my superior officers because the guys were calling me ‘Major.’
Wooten was drafted in 1943 while working for U.S. Steele in Birmingham. He was sent to basic training in New Orleans, and because of his expertise in steel work, he was assigned to the 764th Railroad Shop Battalion. Wooten’s unit was then sent to England and eventually to France. His job in France was to repair railroad cars and get them back into service after they had been bombed and strafed.
Wooten joked that a U.S. Air Corps pilot once asked him what he did in France. He laughed and said, “I cleaned up the messes that you flyboys made!”
Wooten returned home after the war in 1946 to his wife and a three-year old son who was only four months old when he left home. Wooten returned to U.S. Steele and worked for another 40 years. Wooten has been a University of Alabama football fan since the 1930s and remembers going to games back then.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, only 496,777 of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II are still alive today.
Still active, Wooten turned 102 years young on Dec. 3. He traveled to Pearl Harbor with Forever Young Senior Veterans this past May and to Washington, D.C., in October. He is planning to return to Utah Beach in Normandy, France, with the group for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day in June of 2019. Wooten landed on Utah Beach a few months after D-Day.
“Lettermen of the USA is proud to recognize the service of this amazing veteran,” said Darryl Fuhrman, Lettermen of the USA foun-der and 1983 Southside High School graduate. “We have veterans like Major to thank for the freedoms we enjoy in the United States.”
Lettermen of the USA is a national 501 (c) (3) charitable organization that mobilizes the diverse skills of former college athletes and active and former coaches to help serve honorably discharged veterans, wounded veterans of military actions following September 11, 2001, disaster victims, and former college players in need. The organization’s mission is to impact those we serve by offering the motivation, guidance, and support necessary to pursue success in life, school, and work.