Cheers welcome home WWII vets
Gene Schmidt, Bob Van Dyke, Howard Abbe, Frank Nelson, Jim Ragsdale and Matt Satelich made the whirlwind trip to visit the memorials and monuments, especially the WWII memorial.
Despite the rain, bikers from the American Legion Riders escorted the Yamhill County vets all the way home from the Portland International Airport. “That’s what we do — support our veterans,” said Gale Sears of McMinnville’s Legion Post 21.
He was one of about 100 people who cheered the veterans as they arrived in a caravan led by the riders and, through McMinnville, police cars. The crowd kept cheering as the men were escorted into the Vets’ Club for a short ceremony.
“This is your official welcome home from World War II,” said Peggy Lutz, who organized the event. She visited D.C. on an Honor Flight in 2011 and has since served as local coordinator for the program.
A WWII veteran herself, Lutz recalled how most servicemen and women returned unheralded from the war. She organizes the welcome home events to make up for that.
Each returnee was introduced:
Satelich served as a Navy medic and radar tech on the heavy cruiser Canberra in the South Pacific; Schmidt was an airplane mechanic, also in the Navy; Van Dyke served on a Navy troop transport in the South Pacific, ranging as far south as New Zealand and as far north as Tokyo Bay; Nelson worked with pursuit planes in the Navy Air Corps; Abbe, who joined the Navy at 16, was a seaman 1st Class on Saipan when the U.S. bombed Japan; and Ragsdale, the only Army vet in the group, was in a heavy artillery unit that moved across Europe with Patton’s Third Army. (See related story in today’s Connections)
Also introduced were Richard Miller, a Navy veteran who will travel on the next Honor Flight in June, and several men who were on earlier trips, including Ben Asquith, Vic Banke and Homer Farley.
All six men who just returned from the capital said the Honor Flight trip was wonderful. It meant the world to them to spend time with their fellow vets, they said, and they were moved by visiting the monuments and other sights.
For Satelich, the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery was a highlight. But “everything was so interesting,” he said.
Impressive receptions greeted the vets when they arrived in the D.C. area on Friday and returned to Portland Sunday, Abbe said. Fire trucks formed an arch of water for their plane.
Each veteran received a flag flown over the White House, postcards of the memorials and other gifts. They also sported Honor Flight caps and T-shirts.
Everywhere the group went, Abbe said, everyone was kind and courteous.
“He doesn’t say how we behaved, though,” Ragsdale quipped.
Abbe acknowledged that, but hinted that their behavior was first-rate. “It’s been an experience of a lifetime,” he said.
And he noted the truth in something he’d heard the wife of one of his fellow veterans say: “You guys will never get that much attention again.”