RICHMOND, Va. -- At 82 years old, when most people start slowing down, Russell Scott decided it was time to write a new chapter in his life. Each Wednesday morning, the Richmond native leaves his home on a mission. Russell drives himself across town and arrives on time for his 9 a.m. shift at the Virginia War Memorial. This is a routine Russell has been following for 13 years. The soon to be 95-year-old veteran is a fixture at the memorial, volunteering his services, greeting guests and leading school tours.
"Oh, it is such a good day to be here on Wednesdays you see his car pull up," volunteer coordinator Kyndall Drumheller said. "We all feel like he is a part of our own family."
The unassuming man with a gentle smile and infectious laugh vows to live life to the fullest. A life he nearly lost so long ago. During World War II, Russell served as a tail gunner on a B-25 bomber. The Germans shot down his bomber over Italy. It was only Russell’s second bombing mission.
"It was the 25th of May, 1944. I was 24 then. The plane was out of control. It was scary because you didn’t know what was going on," he recalled. "We got hit before we could even open the bomb bay door. The pilot says. ‘We’re going down. Everyone out.’ It was like you were deaf. You could not hear anything."
Russell parachuted out of the plane, but broke his back upon landing. German soldiers chased Russell who was trying to crawl away. They fired their weapons and nearly hit Russell, so he stopped.
"I threw up my hands and yelled comrade. And that is when I was taken prisoner," he said.
Russell spent more than a year as a German POW. He received no medical treatment while kept prisoner.
"I consider myself lucky, but I thank God that I came back alive," he said.
At the end of the war Russell returned to Richmond and worked repairing city-owned vehicles. In retirement, he knew he still could serve with a purpose as a storyteller who has seen so much.
"It means a lot to me," Russell said. "I don’t know, God just wants me here for a reason."
The Memorial’s Executive Director, John Hatfield, called Russell’s firsthand knowledge invaluable.
"Russell is what makes the War Memorial a true tourist destination," Hatfield said. "He is not talking about history that he read at a library. He is talking about history that he lived."
It’s difficult to judge who cherishes their time at the War Memorial more, the visitors or the man people call a national treasure. The aging airmen’s feet may be aided by wheels, but he is still proudly spreading his wings and humbled by simple words he hears so much.
"It makes you feel good to know that people think about you," Russell said. "Just like all of those children come and shaking your hand and thanking you for your service."
Greg McQuade and CBS 6 News are featuring local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email email@example.com.