Honoring World War II Vets
|Fleming Mason Energy's Mary Beth Nance, co-chair of the Oct. 22 Honor Flight, stands next to Edward Ehalt, 86, of Louisville at the World War II Memorial.
The idea came from an article written in the May 2011 Kentucky Living magazine—the statewide publication for Kentucky's electric cooperative systems—and member Generation and Transmission cooperative East Kentucky Power and 15 of its member electric distribution systems joined with the Bluegrass Chapter of the Honor Flight Network to sponsor an Honor Flight for veterans on October 22.
It was one of the most emotionally rewarding days of their lives said the World War II veterans that went on the trip to see the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. In all, 29 made the visit to the World War II Memorial and other monuments. Twenty-seven of the men were veterans of World War II; two others fought in the Korean War.
When the veterans arrived at the Louisville International Airport about 5:30 a.m., they were greeted by the warm smiles of their volunteer escorts and other grateful citizens.
When they landed at Baltimore International Airport later that morning, they were met by hundreds more well-wishers, including 65 midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy.
“You cannot describe how this touches you. There is no way you can prepare yourself for this,” said former marine Jay Warden, 86, of Winchester, who fought in the South Pacific. “Our country is in good shape. It makes you glad you’re an American.”
The veterans traveled from Baltimore to Washington in a chartered bus. As the day progressed, their stories poured out.
“They talk about the heroes coming back. In my opinion the heroes never came back,” said Kirtly Green, 85, from Frankfort, who served on a Navy destroyer. Green manned a gun that fired 40 millimeter shells. As a result, today he can hardly hear. His ship saw action at Iwo Jima, where it lost 11 men, and at Okinawa. “Okinawa was really rough. The suicide planes just kept coming,” he said.
“That’s why he wants to see the memorial,” said his son, Gary Green, of Louisville, who accompanied him. “Because of those guys (who didn’t make it).”
Volunteer Roberta Skinner, a Touchstone Energy Cooperative employee, was pushing Forrest Sparrow’s wheelchair around the World War II Memorial. Sparrow, 89, was injured at the Battle of the Bulge and hospitalized in Liege, Belgium, so Skinner was helping him look for the portion of the memorial devoted to that battle.
Just as they found it, a stranger rushed up, dropped to a knee and grasped Sparrow’s hand. “You were in the Battle of the Bulge?” the man asked. Sparrow said he was. The man introduced himself as Dominique Potier—from Liege, Belgium. “You saved my country,” he said.
On the flight home, the vets received a “mail call” of letters from their families, employees from Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives and others thanking them for their sacrifices. Some wept.
When they arrived in Louisville at 8:40 p.m., they were met by another huge, cheering crowd. “It’s been wonderful. I didn’t know it was going to be this great,” said John Shafer, 91, of Milton. “The only other time I felt this good was when I came back from the war.”
(from an article written by East Kentucky Power Cooperative)
Kentucky Association of
Electric Cooperatives, Inc.
4515 Bishop Lane * Louisville, KY 40218
502-451-2430 * FAX: 502-459-3209