WWII fighter pilot celebrates 100th birthday with skydive over NC

RAEFORD, N.C. (WTVD) -- A North Carolina veteran who was a World War II fighter pilot is celebrating his upcoming 100th birthday by skydiving.

Ed Cottrell served in the Army Air Corps from August 1942 through 1945, then enlisted in the Air Force Reserves in 1950 and completed 28 years.

Cottrell flew 65 missions as a pilot and lost two of his roommates in battle.

Cottrell says his jump is not only to mark his centenarian milestone but also to remember his fallen brothers.

"I got shot up pretty bad, I was fortunate to get back alive, " Cottrell said. "And I did lose two roommates during the war. They both got shot down. One on Dec. 17 -- the day I got hit. The other one on Jan. 1, when he got hit and got killed. So that's why this jump is today. I'm doing it in memory of those who we lost."

Cottrell, who lives in Hendersonville, took a tandem jump in Raeford with Mike Elliott of The All Veteran Group. Elliott served in the military for 26 years with his last 11 years with the U.S. Army Golden Knights. Elliott has more than 15,000 jumps under his belt including several with former President George H.W. Bush.

"And this is so amazing," Elliott said. "They're the Greatest Generation ever. He's going to be 100 years old and I jumped him when he was 90. And, when you're listening to his stories and seeing the state he's in, it just makes you so proud to be an American and really understand what our freedom is all about."

Cottrell said his secret to his longevity is simple.

"You'll laugh when I tell you," Cottrell said. "But, drink lots of water and marry a good woman. And I had a beautiful wife for 76 years."

Following the skydive, Cottrell headed to Raeford to place the first flag and dog tags on a display to honor Military members and their families.

Cottrell turns 100 on Jan. 17.
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