Farewell to an American hero: George Mills dies at 100
By Jennifer L. Williams
For the Enquirer
U.S. Army veteran Sgt. George Flavious Mills – a World War II infantryman, former prisoner of war and longtime community volunteer – died April 24, a few weeks shy of his 101st birthday.
Born in Spencer, Tenn., Mills grew up in Morgan County and sold pianos after graduating from Riverside High School – later Decatur High – in 1939. In 1942, at the age of 21, he and some buddies joined the Army after hearing they would soon be drafted, wanting to have some control over where they would go.
He served in Company E, 109th Infantry, 28th Division, and fought in battles including the Normandy Invasion and the Battle of the Bulge.
He returned home in 1945 after being liberated as a Prisoner of War. He soon went back to selling pianos.
Like many veterans of his era, Mills kept his story of service largely to himself, and few people knew his story until much later in his long life.
Mills said it wasn’t necessarily difficult for him to talk about his time in the military – he just didn’t think anyone wanted to hear about his experiences.
Those first-hand accounts are becoming increasingly hard to come by. Fewer than 1.5 percent of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are still alive today, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
After leaving the service, Mills met his wife, Charles “Charlie” McDoura. They were married 66 years before her death in 2015.
Mills joined several veterans’ organizations when he returned from the war, since he felt it was “the thing to do,” but he did not get involved with any of them until years later.
Once he started opening up about his time in the service, he became more involved in those groups, including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans, where he found fellow veterans who understood and commiserated with him about his experiences.
He also was a founding member of the Finis J. Self Chapter 2212 Military Order of the Purple Heart.
In addition to his involvement with various veterans’ organizations, Mills spent decades volunteering with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief; serving as a member of the Rising Sun Masonic Lodge No. 29; participating in Shriners; and mentoring youth and JROTC cadets.
Mills became particularly close with the Snyder family of Hartselle, often enjoying Sunday dinner with them after his wife passed away. Retired Lt. Col. Michael Snyder serves as the JROTC senior army instructor at Decatur High School, and he often included Mills in their ceremonies.
Most recently, Mills served as the honorary battalion commander for the DHS JROTC military ball in April, though he was unable to attend in person.
“Sundays will never be the same for our family, and I know each person that knew and loved George Mills will be inspired from his life and his example of faith, service and fortitude,” the Snyders posted on Facebook Sunday.
Mills was hospitalized in early March after a fall. He transferred to NHC Healthcare in Moulton after being released from the hospital about two weeks ago, Snyder said, and died there.
Mills’s funeral will be held April 28 at 2 p.m. at the Shelton Funeral Home Chapel. Burial with military honors will be at Roselawn Cemetery.