'The emotions of 57 years': St. Charles Vietnam veteran describes Honor Flight experience

It was disappointing when my friend Duane Buttell told me he couldn't attend our annual golf trip to Lake Geneva, a tradition with several other fellows that has been in place for 20-plus years.

But Duane had a far more important venture on his calendar in mid-July.

Buttell, a resident of St. Charles, was among the military veterans taking off from Midway Airport as part of the 109th Honor Flight to visit monuments in Washington, D.C.

He deserved the honor, having served in Vietnam from February through September 1966 as an Air Force 1st lieutenant.

Operating out of Danang Air Base in South Vietnam, Buttell flew 153 combat missions, with 100 over North Vietnam.

On Sept. 11, 1966, he was sent home, per an Air Force directive in which pilots charting 100 missions over North Vietnam were sent home. He left active duty three years later, finishing as an F4, Phantom instructor pilot at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, training pilots for Vietnam.

"I cannot explain the emotions of 57 years being awakened on the Honor Flight," said Buttell, an active member at the St. Charles Veterans Center, where VFW and American Legion members hold meetings and events.

From left, daughter Spiegel, Duane Buttell, friend Bill Troth, and son Chad Buttell visiting memorials in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of Duane Buttell

Much of the joy and pride for Buttell during the flight to Washington, D.C., had to do with his daughter Beth Spiegel and son Chad Buttell being on the flight, operating as guardians for the veterans. Beth was assigned as Duane's guardian, while Chad was the guardian of Duane's friend Bill Troth of St. Charles. Guardians help the volunteers navigate the trip and memorial visits, so they are generally younger. Spouses are not allowed as guardians.

"Chad would not have been able to attend if not for being Bill's guardian, as they only allow one guardian per veteran," Buttell said. Troth, also a St. Charles Veterans Center member, was an armorer who loaded weapons (bombs, rockets, etc.) on the fighter jets in Vietnam.

"Honor Flight Chicago (a nonprofit veterans' organization) arranged for more than 350 volunteers to meet and greet us at Midway Airport both before and following the return flight, and a similar number was present at Dulles International," Buttell added.

There was one World War II veteran, eight Korean War veterans and 102 Vietnam veterans on board the Boeing 737 Max that made up the Honor Flight.

In D.C., ceremonies were held in their honor at each of the sites visited - the Air Force Memorial, World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean Memorial and the National Air and Space Museum.

Volunteers greet the Honor Flight veterans when they return to Midway Airport after their day in D.C. Courtesy of Duane Buttell

"It was an exciting and emotional day," Buttell said of the trip that started with processing at Midway at 4 a.m. and ended with a return to Midway Airport at 8:30 p.m. the same day.

The veterans said they were overwhelmed by the number of volunteers helping that day, as well as family members, friends and others who greeted them at Dulles and cheered their arrival back home in Chicago. "The motto throughout the day and repeated often by the volunteers was 'Welcome Home,'" Buttell said. "It was a takeaway from what Vietnam vets and many of the Korean vets had never received."

Social media scams

We've all seen this on Facebook at some point. You get a friend request from a friend who passed away more than a year ago. Those are annoying but relatively easy to ignore.

Many other times, they are friend requests from someone claiming to enjoy what you post, and they want to become friends. But they'd like you to send a friend request to them so as not to be too forward.

Other times, friend requests come in from someone already on your list of friends. Not long after these requests come in, the actual friend will send a note saying they were "hacked" and ignore the most recent request.

Well, OK, but wouldn't it be nice if the folks operating these massive social media messes could notify you to be leery of a particular friend request because it didn't seem legitimate?

After all, my phone often tells me a call out of the blue is a "scam likely," which makes it easier to ignore. Apparently, asking the billionaires who bring us social media to make an effort to protect us from hackers, misleading information and threads spouting hate is a big ask - one certainly ignored more often than not.

Because this is a common annoyance, I contacted a cybersecurity and payment fraud expert I spoke to often when covering those topics for American Banker and PaymentsSource for over a decade.

I figured she could share easy-to-understand information so more of us know what is going on when we traverse the social media minefield.

"There's an active discussion taking place among the banks, the telcos (telecommunications companies) and some of the tech firms about how we can get a little more proactive detection of this 'scampocalypse' that we see," said Julie Conroy, head of risk insights for Datos Insights.

"The telcos have been a little bit more proactive (with security)," Conroy said. "From a social media perspective, some of what the street rewards them on is the number of registered users and the number of eyes.

"If you put too many obstacles in front of someone signing up for Facebook or a Tik Tok account, the business side of your operation is going to object," she added.

Social media companies continue to scramble to either claim a piece of the pie or declare themselves the king of the mountain. This is why we see CEOs falling all over themselves to create alternatives to Twitter, feeling that many folks may not trust that company's rebranding and new direction.

The result is Meta (the Facebook company) unveiling Threads, and former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey plans to launch Bluesky at some point. There's plenty of interest in these alternatives, especially if Twitter CEO Elon Musk and others continue to show their hand too easily in terms of which way they'll lean amid the growing political hot-air winds.

But the problem remains that most of these people don't know for sure who the person is behind a mobile device or computer making statements.

"They don't have a ton of visibility as to what are the identities behind some of these accounts," Conroy noted. "The telcos also have an identity issue, but it is not as big of an issue as what some of the social media companies have because the telcos have at least a little more data about who it is behind a device."

But what are these Facebook hackers and others looking for when a fake friend request is on one of my devices?

"It's all about the social engineering," Conroy said. "People overshare greatly on social media, so once you have hacked one person, you get into the entirety of their network."

That means someone unsavory is finding out, or at least able to make a good guess, as to what you may have stored as security answers at your banks or within your passwords.

"People are posting about their dogs and their names, and that can be one of the security questions at their banks," Conroy added.

Conroy noted that a hacker could interact with others directly over Facebook Messenger and pretend to be someone in their network they already know.

"With that, you can do any number of social engineering scams, such as saying you are in jail and need money, or ask for your phone number because they were locked out of their phone and need to respond to a message," she said.

Scammers tend to use the same tactics across all platforms. And their targets are not just vulnerable senior citizens.

"We have some survey data that shows Gen Z (ages 9 to 24) is as equally susceptible to these types of attacks as the seniors," Conroy said. "Part of that is because the seniors are embarrassed to admit it. So, in an anonymous consumer survey, they are embarrassed to admit they got scammed.

"But we are seeing it hit all demographics, and the younger users share everything," she added.

On the prairie

It was always fascinating when our friend Dave Corron took us around his farm in Campton Township or when his family hosted big holiday parties. He also would offer wagon rides across the property.

It's all still there for visitors to enjoy through the Corron Farm Preservation Society and as part of Campton Township parks and open space.

Historic Corron Farm will host its annual free Prairie Fest from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12. The farm is at 7N761 Corron Road.

Robert Corron was one of Kane County's first settlers and farmed on that property in 1835 before purchasing it from the government in 1840.

Music, wagon rides, kids activities, farm tours and a barbecue are scheduled.

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