After 66 years, WWII vets welcomed home
At the end of World War II, war-weary veterans finally returned to the United States, but many did not receive the accolades they so deserved. A retired Air Force captain named Earl Morse decided to do something to make up for the lack of acknowledgement. In 2005, he came up with a plan to help veterans who’d wanted to see the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., but were financially or physically unable to do so, make their dreams a reality.
Morse, along with 11 other pilots, created a volunteer fly program called the Honor Flight Network. Using private planes as well as commercial flights, the program periodically carries veterans off to Washington, D.C., for the trip of a lifetime.
Ninety-five veterans recently were selected to participate in the Aug. 1 Chicago Honor Flight, which whisked them away to Washington, D.C., to see the monument.
In addition to sightseeing, the veterans were awarded a “mail-call” on the flight home, where they received letters of appreciation written by thankful citizens. To top off the trip, an official “Welcome home” celebration awaited them as they returned to Midway Airport, complete with much fanfare.
Woodstock Valley Hi resident Norman Carr, 85, a former Navy quartermaster, was one of the veterans chosen to participate. Carr served in the Navy for three years aboard the USS Landing Craft Infantry National 982. He talked about his days in the military with a faraway look in his eyes, seeming momentarily lost in time.
When the Chicago native had first signed up for the Navy, he’d been stationed in Texas and had joined the ship-landing craft infantry before heading out to the mysterious South Pacific. Never having set foot in Washington, D.C., he was shocked he’d been selected to participate in the Honor Flight.
He said, upon his discharge from the U.S. Navy, he received a letter from President Truman and a thank you from the Secretary of the Navy but not much else.
“We got a nicer welcome home [this time],” he said.
He also was somewhat taken aback by the send-off party he received from Valley Hi Nursing home the day prior to his departure.
“It was a nice gesture,” he said
“I think it’s a wonderful honor … they never got a [real] welcome back,” said Joy Venuso, Carr’s daughter, who attended his send-off party.
“This is the best thing people could do for him. He never really talked about the war,” said Carr’s son Mark, who accompanied his father on the trip.
“This is something that’s long past due.”
The Chicago Honor Flight veterans also had the opportunity to visit the Lincoln, Korean and Vietnam memorials, as well as the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
“Taking pictures of the veterans memorial was very exciting,” said Carr.
“My son wheeled me where he could to look at those various memorials … it was a wonderful day,” he said.
Carr and the other veterans were even more surprised to find hundreds of people waiting to welcome them home as they returned to Midway Airport the night of Aug. 1.
“It was sort of embarrassing, but it was a nice recognition,” he said.
“It was a recognition for what [we] had done in World War II. Some of the servicemen never did make it back.”
Thanks to the Honor Flight Network, more than 81,000 veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam have visited memorials built in their honor.
To learn more about the Honor Flight Network, visit www.honorflight.org.