Paul Bohn jokes that the hat he wears indicating his status as a World War II veteran is magic because of the admiration and thanks he gets when he wears it.
It was Bohn's hat, adorned with Marine Corps pins to denote the branch in which he served, that caught the eye of 8-year-old Paulie Smith at a Hilton Head Island Publix two years ago. And it was Smith's admiration of Bohn's service 60 years before Smith was even born that started the unlikeliest of friendships.
On Wednesday, accompanied by Smith and his family, the 90-year-old Bohn took in the Veterans Day ceremony at a packed Shelter Cove Community Park. Bohn wore his magic hat and Smith wore one of Bohn's old Marine Corps hats.
Paulie Smith was just six the first time he met Bohn, but he surprised the veteran of World War II and the Korean War with his knowledge of World War II that day in Publix, his mother Susan Smith said.
Bohn said he was used to having people come up and thank him for his service, but never from someone so young.
"I'm appreciative of it," Bohn said. "It's very nice when people say thanks. It's a good feeling. People are recognizing what happened, what we did."
Over the past two years, Bohn became part of the Smith's family after their chance meeting.
For his 90th birthday in July, the Smiths arranged for Bohn to fly over Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, where he had gone through recruit training decades ago, in a Stearman biplane.
Bohn was one of a handful of World War II veterans on hand at the ceremony Wednesday morning, which was presented by the Military Veterans Coalition of Hilton Head and hosted by Arthur Wiley Post No. 49 of the American Legion.
"For your commitment, courage, and sacrifice while serving your country, thank you so much," Arthur Wiley Post commander Irvin Campbell said.
Beaufort County native and retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Harold Mitchell, the ceremony's keynote speaker, said the event was a homecoming of sorts for him since he spent most of his adult life away from the area while he served in the Marine Corps and Air Force. A Sheldon native, Mitchell spoke briefly about his history, giving a shoutout to fellow Robert Smalls High School graduates who may have been in attendance.
Mitchell urged his fellow veterans to band together to fight for veterans.
"The importance of providing care to veterans cannot be understated," he said. "We need to do all we can to ensure all veterans get the care they deserve...we need to involve ourselves in the betterment of our fellow veterans, and recognize and celebrate all of our heroes."
Wednesday's ceremony also attracted some foreign veterans hoping to recognize Remembrance Day, which is observed in countries throughout the world on Nov. 11.
Col. Gerry Nudds of the 32 Canadian Brigade Group wore his uniform to the ceremony, just as he would have at work in Toronto. A reservist in the Canadian Army for the past 12 years, Nudds made sure to pack his uniform on his trip down to Berkeley Hall, where he and his wife Marsha own a home.
Nudds attended the ceremony Wednesday in the hopes of laying a red remembrance poppy on the veterans memorial at Shelter Cove, a reference to the World War I poem "In Flanders Fields" commemorating servicemembers who have died in war. A Hilton Head High School Navy JROTC member recited the poem during the ceremony.
"It's my first time away from Canada on Remembrance Day," he said. "Once I saw this ceremony, I knew I had to be here."
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.