Honor Flight provides all-expense paid trips to see their memorial in DC
It’s easy to be patriotic on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. But many of us have lost sight of how hard-won the freedom we enjoy every day really is. Perhaps it is time we all step back a moment and think about this.
The veterans who fought in World War II were often just farm boys who were drafted into service when they were teenagers and yet, despite their lack of life experience, they were asked to fight some of the bloodiest battles in human history at places like Manus, Iwo Jima and against ruthless dictator Adolph Hitler. These soldiers were sent out to the Atlantic or Pacific to go serve their country in a world that seemed to have gone mad and then were sent home, often to never talk about it again.
Honor Flight Gives Vets The Ultimate Thanks
Honor Flight is an organization that provides veterans with a free trip to Washington DC to see the National World War II Memorial that was constructed for them in 2005. It’s Chairman and Wisconsin native, Joe Dean, wants to provide the recognition these people deserve, “We talk about these men and women as dignity personified because that’s what my father was and that’s what so many of these men and women were,” Dean says. “They did remarkable things for our country when we needed them yet we never talk about it.”
After Mr. Dean’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he decided to work with veterans to recall memories from the war and put them on film. When he was 18 years old, Mr. Dean’s father was stationed at Manus Island. Many of the casualties from WWII happened there, with young soldiers having to stitch each other up following life-threatening injuries.
When he started digging, Dean discovered a WWII veteran in his backyard named Joe, who took part in the largest battle ever fought by the U.S. Army, the Battle of the Bulge which was fought on the Western Front in Europe. Joe wound up in a Nazi prison camp and was later rescued but when he was found, he only weighed 70 pounds. He is one of the veterans that tells his story in this revealing video:
Also in the video, veteran Harvey Kurz describes the experience of everyone gathering around the radio as they heard the news that Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was in high school at the time and was unaware of the coming repercussions on his own life. Pearl Harbor was the catalyst that drew the U.S. into WWII.
Shortly after that fateful day, Harvey was drafted and wound up at Iwo Jima which saw one of the most important battles of WWII. Winning at Imo Jima was vitally important because the United States needed an air base close to Japan. Young and wide-eyed, Harvey closely bonded with his shipmates but unfortunately many of them were lost in the bloody battle. Harvey still wakes up in the middle of the night in a panic because of the horrific memories.
My own grandfather served in WWII
…. Which brings me to my own recollection. We probably all have someone we love or someone we know in the community who has served our country and deserves recognition. My own grandfather served in WWII and although he is gone now, I remember stories he told of being a bombardier. Cadets that were selected for bombardier training were entrusted with military secrets and had to take an oath to guard them with their life.
Once Papa had completed pre-flight bombardier training, he was put through a rigorous training program. Not everybody made it. Precise records were kept of their hits and misses and about 12% of the student bombardiers were eliminated.
As a bombardier, Papa released bombs from the back of the fighter jet. In his role as a gunner, he fired machine guns at enemy planes. Because of his role, the plane he was in was one of the main enemy targets so he was constantly shot at as the enemy tried to take his plane down.
While Papa miraculously made it through the war without serious injury, similar to the veteran mentioned previously, Harvey, he would often be jolted awake from deep sleep with nightmares about his experiences. He never dwelled on his problems though and said the hardships he went through were worth it to protect his beloved country. Papa died before he made it to the WWII Veterans memorial but, at least in our family and perhaps even more so through this article and the Honor Flight program, he and others like him will know they’re appreciated.
They truly were the greatest generation…
They won the war. They defeated Hitler and the world was left safe for democracy because of them — but that’s not the way a lot of them experienced it. They came home after the war and many of them just didn’t talk about it. No fanfare. No parade. Just nightmares. Lots of them.
That’s why the Honor Flight program is important. The National World War II memorial is a concrete example of the gratitude the entire country feels for our WWII veterans. Sadly, for many of these brave men, the trip to see the memorial is a race against time because they are in their late 80s and 90s.
So many lives were lost and a high price was paid but as these men look around them in the world today, it is important that they recognize that the free society they see now is a direct result of their sacrifices. So, let’s give what we can in money, word and deed to these fascinating and honorable gentlemen. Let’s all do our part to make sure their stories are not forgotten.
More information and links:
To make a tax deductible donation to the Honor Flight program, you can mail a check or money order to Honor Flight, Inc. Attn: Diane Gresse 175 South Tuttle Road Springfield, OH 45505 or visit this link:
Link to Honor Flight home page: