Military Culture

‘I survived Guam, I can get through this bulls--t’ — WWII vet, 95, makes full recovery from COVID-19

Good news has become scarce of late as the novel coronavirus wreaks havoc on the health and lifestyle of Americans nationwide.

At least, that was until the virus came into contact with Bill Kelly, a 95-year-old World War II veteran who declared a full recovery from COVID-19 Monday after being diagnosed two weeks earlier.

One of the first Navy Seabees to ship out to the South Pacific, Kelly stormed the beaches of Guam alongside Marines during the 1944 amphibious assault of the island and would spend three years in the South Pacific before returning home.

“My grandpa is tough, and he has a faith of steel,” Kelly’s granddaughter, Rose Etherington, told Military Times.

(Right) Kelly poses in front of a Japanese troop carrier ship in the Pacific. (Photo courtesy of Rose Etherington)
(Right) Kelly poses in front of a Japanese troop carrier ship in the Pacific. (Photo courtesy of Rose Etherington)

But COVID-19 has proven to be indiscriminate in its lethality, and so on March 15, with Kelly beginning to feel ill and a thermometer confirming a low-grade fever, the family took him to the hospital.

Preexisting medical conditions that include stage 3 kidney disease, congenital heart disease, and high blood pressure prompted hospital staff to keep Kelly overnight as a precaution.

When his condition improved the following day, the hospital released Kelly to return to his home in McMinnville, Oregon, which he shares with Etherington, her husband, her two children, and her mother.

To be safe, Kelly was tested at the insistence of Etherington’s husband, Isaac, who had been in close proximity to infected patients days earlier while working as a medical evacuation pilot.

Kelly tested positive for coronavirus on March 17, sending the entire family into a two-week quarantine in their home.

Isaac was subsequently tested, and the results came back negative. The much-needed duties of his profession, however, would have to be put on hold under quarantine with his family.

Each family member remained symptom-free while Kelly kept to himself in his bedroom, an initial span of “seven days where we treated the poor guy like a leper,” Isaac Etherington told the Oregonian.

Still, the WWII veteran and former fire chief remained optimistic and “tough as nails,” Rose Etherington wrote in a Facebook post.

“I survived the foxholes of Guam, I can get through this coronavirus bulls--t,” Kelly said, according to Etherington’s post.

As the first week of quarantine came to a close, Kelly’s symptoms gradually subsided.

“He is as chipper and sassy as ever,” Etherington wrote.

Kelly with his great grandchildren, and as a sailor during WWII. (Photo courtesy of Rose Etherington)
Kelly with his great grandchildren, and as a sailor during WWII. (Photo courtesy of Rose Etherington)

“Grandpa Bill” coped with his down time, meanwhile, by serenading his housemates repeatedly with a blasted recording of the “Polka chicken dance” which would reverberate throughout the house.

“Lord give us strength,” Etherington joked.

The family’s quarantine — and the chicken dance marathon — came to a merciful end on March 30. Etherington told Military Times that her grandfather was “doing amazing,” and that Isaac has since returned to work.

Throughout the ordeal Etherington said her grandfather placed a steady emphasis on family and togetherness.

“His dream is to see Americans supporting one another through this time,” she said. “He likes to see that old American fight again!”

And the 95-year-old plans on being around to enjoy it, she said.

“He believes God have him a job to do, and that he’s not going home until he finishes that job.”

Observation Post articles reflect author observations or attempts at humor. Any resemblance to news may be purely coincidental.

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