FLEMING ISLAND – A person can experience a lot in a lifetime, but one Clay County resident has more than a century worth of stories to share.
Ned Broyles, who turned 101 on May 20, is calling Fleming Island home after a lifetime of travel and adventure.
As if living through 14 U.S. presidents, 10 decades, and two world wars wasn’t enough, Broyles saw combat in both World War Two and the Korean War. He was also part of the second World War’s most famous battles.
Broyles served 28 years in the military, primarily as a Navy aviator, but he did note some National Guard experience as well. He received his “aviation wings” in 1938. Broyles described himself as the oldest living Navy aviator.
“I was in Guadalcanal at the beginning of the war and the last battle of Okinawa at the end of the war,” Broyles said. “I made the landing at Iwo Jima, I was an air controller and I directed planes from our aircraft carriers to our enemy targets, I told them where to bomb.”
Broyles has a two-part speech about his wartime experience posted on YouTube.
In addition to the war effort in the Pacific, Broyles was part of a search team for the famous pilot Amelia Earhart, who disappeared during a flight in 1937.
Broyles also recalls memories of hiding in foxholes to avoid enemy fire and landing planes in dangerous situations.
While Broyles appeared uncomfortable going into detail about the atrocities he saw during the war, he did note the significance of what his fellow servicemen were doing in the Pacific.
“It was an awful battle, people think Iwo Jima was bad because we lost a third of our troops,” Broyles said. “There were 200,000 people killed in Okinawa, that was Japanese, Okinawans and Marines.”
As the Memorial Day celebrations come to close, the things that Ned Broyles experienced are an example of why that treasured day of remembrance exists.
Following his military service, Broyles’ life took a much different direction. He used his college education to enter the banking industry, something he didn’t even expect.
“I walked into Crocker National Bank in San Francisco and I asked for the operations officer,” Broyles said. “We talked for about 10 minutes, and he asked me what I was here for, he thought I was a customer, I said no, I’m here for a job.”
After a review by the bank owners, he was offered a job and they sent him to the University of Washington to learn more about the industry, because in his own words, he “didn’t know a G—damn thing about banking.”
Upon finishing school, he became an investment & trust manager for the next 15 years.
Throughout the rest of his post-retirement years, Broyles lived with his wife of 70 years in California. They had three sons together. She passed away several years ago, at age 96
“The best thing I ever did was marry my pretty bride,” Broyles said.
About six months ago, Broyles who was living alone in California, decided to migrate to Florida to be closer to his son Tony Broyles in Fleming Island.
Residing in the Allegro Retirement Community on U.S. Highway 17. Broyles’ life is much quieter life these days. He plays bridge in his free time, still has a valid Florida driver’s license, and became a registered Clay County voter.
No stranger to doing things he never imagined, Broyles, at 101, uses an iPad, an iPhone and reads books daily.
He even stays up to date on current issues. “If I had my way, college education would be free for every kid in the United States, no college loans,” Broyles said.
He also went on to praise President Barrack Obama for visiting Hiroshima last week.
“Our country is 240 years old, that means he’s been around for 40 percent of our countries existence,” said Tony Broyles. “He was also a major contributor to our nation’s freedoms, he was part of the generation that was there at the calling to go to war and fight for what America believes in.”
While Broyles is living out his golden years surrounded by family and enjoying Clay County, there is still one more thing he like to do.
“I’d like to go to the moon,” Ned Broyles said.