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Friday, May 6, 2016

Honor Flight efforts reward vets with visit to Washington

Saturday, November 10, 2012

(Photo)
Guest speaker Joe Ellis (right) of the organization Honor Flight shakes hands with veteran Chet Fornari Friday morning during a visit to Autumn Glen for its annual Veterans Day breakfast. Ellis said he has received approval to add Putnam County World War II veterans' names to those considered for the next Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
(Banner Graphic/ERIC BERNSEE) [Order this photo]
When he retired as an Indiana regional manager for Ace Hardware, Joe Ellis wondered about his future. But all he really needed to do was think about his past.

Ellis, the son of a D-Day paratrooper and a Vietnam vet himself, has become immersed in the Honor Flight program that provides a free opportunity for World War II veterans to fly to Washington, D.C., to see firsthand the monuments that stand in their honor.

A New Market resident, Ellis helps make it possible for Montgomery and Tippecanoe county World War II veterans to take part in the program, which makes three flights a year from the Purdue Airport to the nation's capital.

And Friday morning, Ellis promised to start adding Putnam County veterans' names to that list in time for the next flight on April 15, 2013.

Speaking at a Veterans Day breakfast Friday at Autumn Glen in Greencastle, Ellis urged veterans in the audience to write down their stories.

"All of you have a story," he said. "And if you think your sons or daughters don't want to know about it, they do. They just don't know how to ask you for it.

"You need to write it down, not necessarily the blood and guts of what you saw," Ellis added, "but where you were and what you did. Everyone's got a story whether they were in war or not."

And Ellis would know, although he didn't always.

He never knew the extent of his own father's involvement in World War II until he was filling out scholarship paperwork for funding intended for children of war veterans.

"My dad never talked about it," Ellis told the Autumn Glen group and guests. "I didn't know anything about what he did until I got a letter from some major general who talked about all the things my dad had done."

What his father, Warren C. Ellis of Alamo, Ind., did was nothing short of Hollywood material.

As a member of the 101st Airborne, he jumped into the World War II fray, parachuting into battle on D-Day and making his way to the Battle of the Bulge. There he was captured as a prisoner of war, but later escaped, before going back with a group of soldiers and freedom fighters to liberate the stalag.

For all that action above and beyond the call of duty, he earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

"But that's all I know," Ellis said.

Turning his thoughts back to Honor Flight, Ellis mused, "This is like my second life, it really is."

He explained that Honor Flight helps veterans fly to Washington, D.C., for a daylong visit free of charge, thanks to the Lafayette Gold Star Mothers and several benefactors.

In Montgomery and Tippecanoe counties, those include long-term commitments from the banks, Nucor Steel, the VFW and the American Legion, along with the Montgomery County Community Foundation and several private individual donors. Their generosity covers the per-veteran cost of the $500 per flight.

The plane holds 170 passengers with about 80 veterans scheduled per flight. Because of the advanced age of World War II veterans, Honor Flight requires a guardian come along for each veteran.

Guardians must pay their own way and can be sons or daughters or grandchildren and even friends. They cannot be wives, however, because of the likely age of that spouse.

"It has to be someone younger and physically fit," Ellis said, explaining that hundreds of people have signed up to be guardians if a veteran doesn't have access to proper help.

Wheelchairs and even patients on oxygen can be accommodated, Ellis said, adding that veterans don't need any money on the trip since all meals, drinks and snacks, and even hats and shirts are provided by Honor Flight.

"Every veteran who has gone on it cannot believe they can go on a flight for free to Washington, D.C., and back," Ellis said, noting that Honor Flight's mission is to make sure all World War II veterans have the opportunity to take part in such an experience.

Eventually, he said, the Honor Flight program could be extended to Korean War and Vietnam veterans as well.

But the focus currently is on "The Greatest Generation," as the supreme-sacrificing World War II group has come to be known.

The highlight of the trip is that veterans get to see (usually for the first time) their WWII memorial, built in 2004.

"If you haven't seen it, it's awesome," Ellis said, explaining that the memorial "highlights peace and sacrifice, not war."

The trip also takes the group to the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Wall and the Korean section, as well as the Marine Monument (formerly the Iwo Jima memorial), and finally to experience the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

For more information or to make a donation to the effort, persons can go to www.lafayettegoldstarmothers.org or call 430-4141 or 414-3676.

Ellis said he would provide Honor Flight participation forms for interested Putnam County veterans to Sue McCune, associate director at Autumn Glen, who organized Friday's Veterans Day breakfast at the facility.


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What a wonderful program to honor those who served. My father never talked about his experience in Korea. I knew that he was honorably discharged as a Marine Sergeant and was a wireman laying the communication lines ahead of the troops but that was all I could get from him. I do have his uniforms, stripes, medals, maps and other things that he kept. I was told by a relative that he received a purple heart so I contacted the National Personnel Records Center and received a copy of his military file. I was amazed at how large and how much was included. If you are a child or grandchild you are entitled to the file, including medical records. You can start the process at: http://www.archives.gov/veterans/militar...

-- Posted by marvel_s_lee_blessed on Sat, Nov 10, 2012, at 10:25 AM


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