Best friends on final Honor Flight out of Ohio airport
AKRON, Ohio — One last mission.
Robert “Bud” Sabetay and Leonard “Lenny” Rudnick, World War II veterans who became close pals after the deaths of their wives, will travel together Saturday on the final Honor Flight out of Akron-Canton Airport.
“We were the dinosaurs,” Rudnick, a U.S. Navy veteran, said.
A sailor aboard the USS Terry in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, Rudnick talks of fellow sailors who fought “old-fashioned” battles at sea that the world probably will never see again because of changes in technology and methods of warfare.
He and Sabetay, both 87 years old, will be with 103 other WWII veterans on Saturday’s trip to Washington, D.C., to see the National World War II Memorial and other monuments. The group arrives about 6 a.m. Saturday for an 8 a.m. charter flight; they return to Akron-Canton Airport at 8 p.m.
J.M. Smucker Co. is sponsoring the flight for a third time, said Valerie Kinney, executive director of Honor Flight CAK.
Kinney’s group has organized Honor Flights out of Akron-Canton Airport since 2008. About 1,100 WWII veterans have taken the free trips to the nation’s capital, she said.
Over the years, more and more names were submitted to Honor Flight. After Saturday’s trip, all but a few veterans will have participated. The remaining names left will be put on lists for flights out of other airports.
“We have completed our mission,” Kinney said.
Making the final trip, she said, will be bittersweet.
“It has been an awesome journey — meeting members of our greatest generation from Ohio and others in D.C. Their stories have inspired me and others who have volunteered their service to our organization.”
Sabetay, who worked in the glass business for six decades, briefly served in the Army Air Corps before joining an infantry unit in the Army. He saw action across Europe, including at the Battle of the Bulge, and earned five battle stars.
“I had a lot of close calls,” said Sabetay, who is in the finishing stages of completing a book about his experiences in the war.
When Sabetay’s wife, Betty, died in 2010, he started doing more things with Rudnick, a friend from their earlier poker-playing days. His wife, Esther Miriam, had died in 2001.
Rudnick, who worked in electronics and operated a TV repair business called Len’s Television Service for years, said he traveled all around the world while in the Navy from 1942 — at age 17 — until 1946.
At Iwo Jima, nearly 20 sailors on his ship were killed and the destroyer was badly damaged.
“We had to limp” back to port, he said.
Thinking back to his time in the war, “I can’t believe it’s been so long.” Sometimes it seems like a dream, he said but he knows it was real.
“I lived through it,” he said.
Kinney, a Jackson Township resident and a teacher in the Canton Local School District, said she has learned something from every veteran who has taken part in the Honor Flights.
“They are walking, talking history books,” she said.
“For 1,100 WWII veterans, we hope we made a difference in their lives,” said Kinney who has two sons serving in the military. “They certainly made a difference in ours.”