Celebrating WWII Vets with Honor Flight
By Julie Blim
The 700 Club
CBN.com - Matt Hartman, Director, HFHTVA:
Sixteen million men & women fought in uniform in WWII. It’s not an exaggeration to say that those men and women helped save the world, and made our country safe for our freedoms and democracy. So they are absolutely heroes.
It was in that spirit that the Honor Flight Network was born. It all began in 2005 with 12 WWII veterans from Ohio.
The mission of the Honor Flight Network is to get Americas veterans from any era to Washington DC to visit the memorials and monuments that were built to honor their sacrifice and service. The idea spread like wildfire. Today there are more than 100 Honor Flight hubs in 41 states.
This is our opportunity to say thank you, welcome home, job well done.
Last month the Virginia hub took 89 veterans to Washington for the day. We talked with two of them a week before the trip. Preble and Isabell Staver of Norfolk, VA are both WWII veterans. They met in Philadelphia during the war. Preble was already enlisted in the marines.
Preble Staver, age 92:
A callow youth. Wet behind the ears. 1:5:35 And I thought, “What did I get myself into?” But I mean, the war's a war. We knew we'd eventually go.
Preble’s service inspired Isabell to enlist as well – as a nurse. ….
Isabell Staver, age 92
I decided it would be nice to go in to the Navy and serve my country too.
But marriage would have to wait. In February 1945, the 5th marine division landed on Iwo Jima and for 36 days, fought one of the fiercest, bloodiest battles of WWII. Preble was there.
It was hell. The whole landscape was nothing but volcanic ash.... Boy, they tore 'em up on the beach.
You were under great tension, under great pressure, you're under gunfire. You're there. That's your job. You do what you have to do.
He was also witness to what later became one of the most famous images in war history ….
You look up and there’s a flag - you knew you would be alright.
Preble was awarded the Bronze Star for his artillery fieldwork on Iwo Jima.
Well, you wonder how you got singled out. We're all there, we're all doing our job, you know. So you're humble. Call me humble.
After the war and years of writing letters, Preble and Isabell married in 1946. Now 67 years later, the Stavers along with the other veterans and volunteers boarded buses for mission number 10. At o-dark-thirty, family, military staff, even high school ROTC members came out to cheer the veterans on. The first stop of the day: the Korean War Memorial - dedicated in 1995.
Tom Whalen, veteran of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam:
It’s a monument to those who served with me.
Clarence Ellis, veteran of Korean:
.. great to be here and think about your fellow men that can’t be here.
Joe Kelley, veteran of Korea:
Yep. They’re the real heroes.
Then they visited the WWII memorial - dedicated in 2004.
When that memorial was completed, the estimate was that 75% of the veterans who had served in WWII had already passed away. I think they really take that to heart … because they’re representing all their friends and people they fought next to.
Senator Bob Dole was there to greet his fellow veterans. Young service members came out to greet the veterans too.
JESSICA WHITEHURST, USN :
It's something I wish every service member and every person in general could do.
STAFF SGT. KENNETH THORSON, USMC:
This is our history. These type of things won’t be able to on forever. This is a fading piece of history and it’s important that we’re here to document it, honor it and remember where we came from …
And for those who served in that war ….
Sandy Lesberg, veteran of WWII
The impact of the WWII memorial - and I’m WWII - is massive. They’ve made it personal by listing the major battles I was in in Europe.
It’s tremendous. It’s awesome, to see all the veterans, all the public, and the respect they show – unbelievable.
Each of the veterans is assigned a volunteer or "guardian" to help them along the journey.
Terry Denton, veteran and guardian:
As retired Navy myself it’s an honor to be part of the Honor Flight. The vets are precious and have sacrificed so much for us to even be here today.
Next came the Iwo Jima memorial. The giant statue of the iconic flag-raising was dedicated in 1954. Then at Arlington National Cemetery, they had a front row seat for the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Arlington has special meaning for the Stavers -- their son, Whitney, a Vietnam veteran, is buried there. So is Mr. Staver’s brother, Hugh. The tour ended at the National Museum of the Marine Corps – opened in 2006. The immersion exhibits let visitors see, hear, feel, and even smell what battles were like. Maggie Young – who is 98 and a half years young – was a stateside army supply officer during WWII.
We were all very concerned …. we were losing the war to begin with, you know. And that was scary. So we we were all very serious about winning this war.
On the ride home, something very special took place – “mail call!” Every one of the veterans received letters of appreciation from family, friends, even school kids. Finally – the end of a very long, very meaningful day. For the men & women who served our county so well, it’s one they’ll never forget.
We know we need each other, we really do, and it’s just been a really happy day.
Wouldn’t have missed it. Speechless. That’s not like me.
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