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 254.
"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 War.
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 conflict.
"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 www.honorflight.org.
Article and photo by USAF TSgt. Karen J. Tomasik
Defense Information School
Reprinted from Air Force News Service
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