Servicemembers Join World War II Vets At National Mall
(June 13, 2009)
|FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (6/10/2009 - AFNS) -- Nearly 45 volunteers from the
Fort Meade community gathered at the National Mall May 27 to help give 55 men
and women who served during World War II a chance to see the memorial dedicated
to their service.
"These vets are our living military heritage," said retired Master Sgt. Russ
Wagner, the former vice president of Air Force Sergeants Association Chapter
"One of my favorite things to see is an 80-something World War II vet talking to
a 20-something servicemember, and the military connection erases the age
difference and service difference," Sergeant Wagner said. "These are simply two
military personnel getting together and talking - sharing their experiences."
Airmen escort World War II veterans through the Korean War
Veterans Memorial May 27, 2009 in Washington, D.C. The veterans traveled to
Washington, D.C., as part of the Honor Flight program, which covers the entire
cost of the veterans' travel to and from the memorial dedicated in their honor.
The volunteers included active-duty and retired servicemembers from the 70th
Intelligence Wing, the Defense Information School and various
military intelligence battalions at Fort Meade, MD.
Carl Taber, a former Army corporal from Toledo, Ohio, shared one such experience
with Airman 1st Class Kyle Moore, a network analyst assigned to the 22nd
Intelligence Squadron here.
"The conditions in North Africa were so poor that we would take portions of our
C-rations and give them to the children who crowded around us," Mr. Taber said.
"I wouldn't take a million dollars to experience what I lived through during the
war ever again."
The opportunity to connect with this quickly vanishing generation of
servicemembers won't be around much longer.
"It's estimated that we lose 1,000 to 1,200 World War II vets every day, and
within five to 10 years there won't be any left," Sergeant Wagner said.
Another member in Mr. Taber's group was Douglas Wegman, a Navy veteran from
Pemberville, Ohio, who served for two tours during World War II and the Korean
After the visit to the World War II Memorial and a break for lunch were
completed, Mr. Wegman and his escort, Senior Airman Ashlee Cary who is an Arabic
linguist with the 22nd IS, continued down the Mall to see the Korean War
Veterans and Vietnam Veterans memorials.
While at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Mr. Wegman took a moment to point out
the name of a friend, Kenneth W. Krukemyer, who lost his life during the
"He was a good kid," Mr. Wegman said. "He really was one of a kind."
Mr. Taber, Mr. Wegman and other veterans in their group were able to make the
trip to Washington, D.C., through Honor Flight Northwest Ohio, a specific branch
of the overall Honor Flight Network.
The mission of the network is to transport America's veterans to Washington,
D.C., to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices,
and Mr. Wagner said he will bring volunteers to meet every Honor Flight
Northwest Ohio group that can come to the memorial.
The volunteers Mr. Wagner brought included active-duty and retired
servicemembers from agencies here such as the 70th Intelligence Wing, the
Defense Information School, the Navy Information Operations Command, and various
military intelligence battalions. While the volunteer interaction with the
veterans is what Mr. Wagner said he loves to see happen each visit, there is a
more personal reason for his involvement with the Honor Flight program.
"My grandfather and father-in-law served in World War II," Mr. Wagner said. "My
grandfather was in the Battle of the Bulge and lived the rest of his life after
the war with shrapnel pieces in his body. My father-in-law was in (Army Gen.
George S.) Patton's 3rd Army and helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp.
They both passed before the memorial in D.C., was built. My wife, Laura, and I
have made it our goal to support Honor Flight Northwest Ohio as much as possible
to honor them. We feel their presence when we visit with their comrades, and it
helps us keep their memories alive. It was because of them that I was interested
in getting AFSA 254 involved with Honor Flight."
To learn more about the Honor Flight program, visit
by USAF TSgt. Karen J. Tomasik
Defense Information School
Air Force News Service
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