It all started on a rainy Memorial Day. We went up to our veterans memorial in North Manchester as we do every Memorial Day. It was not a very good day. Our post commander, Johnny Wheeler, was ill and not present. It was decided I would say a few words to the terrific, truly American folks who braved the lousy elements to attend the annual ritual of paying our respects to the veterans of all our wars.
So, not being a Bob Hope or Johnny Carson, I proceeded to say some words to the folks about how nice it was to see them there. I even threatened to sing a song, but that didn’t happen. After a few more words, we thanked Dee Hoffman for the lovely wreath that she makes for the memorial every year. Then Pastor Freeman blessed all of our veterans. I turned the doings over to our terrific firing squad, Post 286, led by Steve Carter. The flag was lowered and raised during the firing and playing of the beautiful and mournful taps.
My wife and I went home and debated for about three hours whether to go to Fort Wayne to see more about the honor flights that have been going on. These flights have been going on for several years, honoring veterans of World War II. We are slowly running out of WWII vets and are now taking some Korean War vets. These guys are nearly as old as we are and they deserve to go see their Korean Memorial.
Finally at 2 p.m. we decided to go. We jumped in some clothes and drove to Peabody Home. Lo and behold, there’s the bus being warmed up. So we went inside and were met by ladies holding an ice cream social. Now when it comes to ice cream socials, I am a leader. So I had a bowl of ice cream with sliced bananas, pineapple, nuts and topped off with whipped cream.
My lovely wife, Phyllis, was behind me. Suddenly we found ourselves at a table with six lovely ladies. I personally knew three of them, but don’t ask me their names because I don’t know.
All of a sudden, they called for us to board the bus for Fort Wayne. We were finally on our way to Parkview Field and it was still raining. After an uneventful ride, we arrived at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne.
We passed The Harrison that they had so much controversy about building. But here it is, a big beautiful building with condos or apartments overlooking Parkview Field. We got to the entrance and started to unload. My wife went ahead of me. Now Phyllis does not move very fast as she has one bad knee (that’s another long story) so they put her in a wheelchair with the help of one of our own guys, none other than Big David Terflinger, who was hustling around helping other people.
Phyllis got in a wheelchair and, boom, she’s gone. I didn’t know where they took her, somewhere in the stadium. So now my first order of business was to find my wife. This happened an hour later as I was walking one way in a hallway and someone was pushing her toward me. So I pushed her into Suite 2 where there were about 15-20 WWII guys and families. I didn’t know any of them but made friends with four to five of them, especially one guy named Chuck from Fort Wayne. He told me he was in the Battle of the Bulge. That was one of the Army’s toughest battles in Europe during WWII. We got to be pretty good buddies during the course of the day. He also had a lovely family with him – his wife, two daughters and a granddaughter. We promised to stay in touch. But neither one of us bothered to get a phone number or address. But that’s the way of old guys; we forget things once in awhile.
It was a chilly damp day. My wife sat inside the suite and I spent most of it on the outside and other places. I ran into Bob Myers, who runs the Honor Flight program, and his lovely wife, Sandy. Bob introduced me to the general of the National Guard in Fort Wayne, quite an honor.
By this time, we were getting hungry. Lo and behold, here came our lovely leader from the Peabody Home with a pad and pencil to take orders for food.
How much better could this get? Twenty minutes later, here came my chicken strips, fries and drink. But the food and drink did not keep me from running in and out of the suite.
Talking to other WWII guys, I think the title of WWII is not enough to recognize us. I think we should call ourselves The Brotherhood of WWII because we are always ready to give of ourselves to other people and organizations.
While we were walking down the hallway, a young boy had stopped me, shook my hand thanked me for my service and handed me a sheet of notebook paper and thanked me again. There was a gang behind me, pushing me, so I put the paper in my pocket and walked on.
Now it was getting late. The movie was coming to an end. People were now getting itchy. We had been at Parkview Field for about five to six hours. (By the way, Parkview Field is such a beautiful ballfield. I thought they wouldn’t dare let anyone with spikes on their shoes run around that immaculate field. But as nice as it is, it is no match for my beautiful Fenway Park in Boston.) We were moving toward the exit and the elevator. We got down and start for the Peabody bus and the heavy rain and again there’s big Dave Terflinger helping people board their busses. I hollered at Dave to get me a souvenir of one of the big beautiful blue and white umbrellas but to no avail. Dave didn’t hear me or paid no attention to me. So I left without a souvenir. We had another nice uneventful ride back to the Peabody Home.
We got home. While getting ready to relax, I reached in my jacket pocket and took out the sheet of paper the younger man handed me. In it he thanked me for my military service, told how he had friends in the military family and how he plans to enlist in the military after he graduates from high school. His name is Jesse Ranney. He left no address or phone, so I hope he graduates with honors and has a very successful career in the military. Thank you, Jesse.
Thank you, Acme Steel Company, for allowing us to use your beautiful suite. Hope it was clean when you got there.
Thank you for the great help we received from Lisa Williams and Mona Shepherd.
Basically this story is to thank all the wonderful people for the wonderful trip up there and back. I wish I could list them all by name. Thank you Peabody for the great bus ride. Oh, by the way, the driver, Dick Shepherd, did a terrific job driving in the rain. A great big thank you to all.