The number of surviving World War II veterans is on the decline, but seven vets of that era from The Garlands of Barrington will take an Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C., July 11 to visit the National World War II Memorial.
They are preparing mentally and physically for what promises to be a busy and emotional day visiting the memorial and touring the nation's capital.
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This all-expense-paid trip of a lifetime is provided courtesy of Honor Flight Chicago and arranged by The Garlands of Barrington. Participants will board the plane at dawn at Midway Airport to spend the day touring with the help of volunteers and then return home at night to a heroes' welcome.
Honor Flight Chicago is part of a national network of nonprofit organizations that have flown more than 80,000 veterans to the memorial for free since 2005.
"The American veteran is one of our greatest treasures … those men and women who answered our nation's call, especially at times of our greatest need," said Honor Flight Chicago President Mary Pettinato.
Veterans from The Garlands of Barrington who will be on the July 11 Honor Flight are:
• Raymond A. (Ray) Wilke, Army, 2nd lieutenant, Sept. 1, 1944, to January 1947, occupation force in Japan and Korea.
• Eugene H. (Gene) Seibert, Air Force, December 1942 to December 1945, weatherman B-24 crew.
• Arthur W. (Bill) Youngberg, USAAC, Flight 08, 1943-1946, pilot, troop carrier command.
• John Patrick (Jack) Roche, AUS, private, Jan. 28, 1944, to June 2, 1945, surgical technician, 106th General Hospital, France.
• Robert (Bucky) Ellis, Navy, Seaman First Class, July 1945 to August 1946, Great Lakes Training R.T.
• Vette Kell, Navy, lieutenant, December 1943 to February 1946, submarine patrol, Battle of Okinawa. Ship bombed by suicide pilots, disabled.
• E. John (John) Faassen, Navy, ensign, July 1943 to July 1946, destroyer escort for aircraft carriers, sank Japanese submarines.
The war experiences helped shape these veterans' lives and influenced the character of the men they became and are today.
Roche recalls truckloads of wounded who came in bandaged from the front lines during the Battle of the Bulge.
In his memoirs he writes, "I washed and shaved their bodies in preparation for surgery. Bullets have no respect. It was then I realized the futility of war."
Seibert was an Air Force weatherman whose calculations helped determine the best flight patterns for pilots on bombing missions to targets in China occupied by Japan.
"We did a lot of computing without computers back then," he said.
He tells of aborting a mission and bailing out of his plane, being lost in the Himalayas, ("a horrifying experience") and the time when he and his buddies entered a burning plane and dragged out a mailbag from inside. The bag contained a signed letter from the sweetheart Gene later married back home. He read every word.
The Garlands is a continuing care retirement community for people ages 55 and older that provides a resort setting with on-site assisted and nursing care as needed.
For details, visit www.TheGarlands.com.