LONGMONT, Colo. (KDVR) — Inside Balfour at Longmont senior living center, they’re celebrating a birthday next week. Elmer McGinty is lucky enough to be turning 99 years old.

In fact, the back of his bomber jacket even says “Lucky” on it – a nickname he’s had since World War II, when he was lucky enough to survive 29 bombing missions over Germany and France.

In the Army at 17 years old

“I went in (to the Army Air Corps) at 17. Just turned 17,” McGinty told FOX31.

He flew in the Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress,” where he served as a waist gunner, defending the aircraft against the enemy. He was constantly in harm’s way, and constantly watching friends and fellow service members being shot out of the sky.

We first met Lucky years ago, on a mission with a Denver-based veterans charity, The Greatest Generations Foundation. They take war heroes back to the places they served. We went with Lucky to France for D-Day, and Lucky has traveled the world with the charity, whose founder, Timothy Davis, is a close friend.

“England, Australia, Belgium, Luxembourg. It’s been wonderful to me. We’ve been great buddies, you know,” McGinty said.

But why is this veteran called ‘Lucky?’

Despite his enviable world travels, despite surviving those 29 bombing missions, and despite living to nearly 100 years old — none of those things are the real reason they call McGinty “Lucky.” So why do they?

Turns out, he was lucky enough to not get court-martialed when he socked an overly-ambitious young superior who threatened to bust him down to the rank of private for no good reason (even though McGinty was already a private).

“So he grabbed my hair and said, ‘I told you to get a haircut.’ I hit him. All hell broke loose,” McGinty said.

Thankfully an apology – and a week spent scrubbing the floors – defused the situation. Lucky for him, and fortunate for us to get to meet a true American hero, who put his life on the line 80 years ago.

FOX31 Hero of the Month

For his military service in World War II, and in honor of his 99th birthday, FOX31 is naming McGinty the Serving Those Who Serve Hero of the Month for December 2022. He received a plaque and a $500 Visa gift card from our Serving Those Who Serve sponsors, Plumbline ServicesFord and the Leo Hill Charitable Trust.

If you know a veteran, active-duty service member, military family member or volunteer deserving of our Hero of the Month honors, you can nominate them on the Serving Those Who Serve page.