Ky. Vets depart for monumental trip
Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.
Seven decades ago, hundreds of thousands of raw Army, Navy and Marine inductees bounded effortlessly aboard buses, swung down the aisles and plunked themselves down for long rides to training camps.
For almost all of them, it would be their first stop on a journey that would lead them to far-flung battlefields and treacherous waters during World War II.
A few years later, the scene was repeated, albeit in lesser numbers, when hostilities broke out in North and South Korea.
On a chilly early afternoon at the Owensboro Sportscenter Wednesday, 28 American military veterans of those long-ago eras once again boarded a bus. It was a slower process for them this time, however. A couple approached the gleaming bus pushing walkers. A few others assisted themselves with canes. But none failed to make it up the steps and a few minutes later they were off to Louisville to catch a plane to Washington, D.C., cheered on by dozens of well-wishers and led out of the city by a parade of 20 throaty motorcycles and a triple police escort.
Shortly before they left, Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain paid them a high compliment.
"If anyone could make this trip with us and follow these veterans and look into their eyes, they fill with tears," said Cain, who has accompanied veterans on previous Honor Flight trips to the nation's capitol. "You would realize that many of them are the sole survivor of their crew or squad. They realize that their sacrifice was not in vain. Because of these gentlemen, we live in a free world. They literally saved the world."
For 88-year-old Army veteran Albert Roby, it will be his first time to see the memorials. "I'm looking forward to it, that's for sure,"he said.
Shannon Jasper, 87, a Navy veteran who spent the war years stateside, returned to his Owensboro hometown 10 years ago after living in Reno, Nev., for 55 years. He said he hasn't seen Washington since the 1960s when he traveled there in a 1961 Ford Country Squire station wagon and was looking forward to his return trip.
L.W. Long, 90, of Hawesville said he spent two noncombat years in Italy in World War II. "I want to see what the monuments look like," he said. "They show how we appreciate our veterans and that we were part of keeping our freedom."
Otto Reisz, 86, joined the Navy when he was 17 in 1944 and wound up in the Mediterranean Sea aboard the U.S.S. Providence, a light cruiser. This will be his first trip to Washington, which he said he never thought much about until now.
"It will be a lot of surprises, I know," Reisz said. "The monuments are about all I'm interested in. I don't know much about Washington. I never thought about going. I'm thrilled about it now."
Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly helped see the vets off.
"I want to say thank you and tell you how much we admire you for the courage it took to leave your families and do what you did," Mattingly told the honored 28. "I know there are painful memories, but I hope you will share some memories."
The veterans — the largest group sent from Owensboro so far — will be welcomed home at Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport at 11 a.m. Friday with an air show and luncheon.
Dr. Harold Cannon of Owensboro and the Tennessee Ridge Runner Flight Team will perform a "missing man" formation over the airport in World War II aircraft on Friday. After the short air show, the veterans will be taken to the hangar at Watts Brothers Aviation at the airport where Cannon and his wife will host a luncheon for them, Cain said.
Veterans from Hopkinsville and Bowling Green are joining the Owensboro veterans for the flight.
Steve Vied, 691-7297, email@example.com