Just to get in the Army, Nathan Kline had to defy the wishes of his mother and father.
"You had to have your parents' signature. And they refused,” he recalled. “They wanted me to stay in college."
So his uncle — a veteran — signed for him.
"I was 18 years old and I enlisted in order to become a fighter pilot,” Kline said.
One problem: His vision wasn't up to snuff.
"I flunked the physical because my eyes were 20/40,” he said, “and 20/20 was what you needed."
But bombardiers and navigators were — unfortunately — in demand, as they were killed or wounded faster than any other crew member, due to the notorious German anti-aircraft flak guns.
So, Kline got another chance.
"I was determined to get in this darn war,” he said. “So the night before, I went into the area where they give the physical and I memorized the 20/20 line of the eye chart."
Seventy-five years later, he can still recite the random row of letters.
From there, he went on to fly dozens of missions in the B-26, including a significant one on June 6, 1944.
Kline flew over an important route for German soldiers along the Seine.
"We bombed the bridge to eliminate a lot of that ability for them to bring those troops in,” he remembered.
With his Brownie camera, he snapped a photo of the moment the bridge was reduced to smithereens.
In the nose of the bomber, Kline used both feet to secure the flight plan to the floor. "I happened to just sit back and a piece of flak about this big,” he gestured, “came right between my legs and out the top.
"Had I not sat back, I wouldn't be talking to you."
The first time, the engine was struck by flak and erupted into flames. The aircraft dove 6,000 feet, which helped quell the fire. The second instance: The plane's hydraulic system was shot out, and the crew was forced to land belly-down in the snow.
Kline's efforts in World War II earned him numerous awards, including the French Legion of Honour and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He read an excerpt from the proclamation: "Kline's actions and the devotion to duty reflect the highest credit upon himself in the armed forces of the United States."
The 94-year-old Kline got emotional reading a just brief fragment of his service.
“This is the story of my life,” he said tearfully.
"What I would like to make sure that our country and our citizens are aware of these many veterans that are homeless with their families, and what we have done as veterans to preserve our freedom in our country."