by Ashley Flynn
In November 2012, there were an estimated 1.4 million WWII veterans living out of the 16 million who served. In an effort to honor these men one last time before it’s too late, the Honor Flight Network provides a free day trip to Washington D.C. for WWII veterans, who are dying at a rate of nearly 1,000 per day.
The Honor Flight Network has sent over 100,000 veterans on this trip, and Freethink Media created a documentary about four WWII veterans who took advantage of the opportunity.
The North Manchester American Legion Post #286 will present Honor Flight the movie at the North Manchester High School Performing Arts on April 20, at 2 p.m., and again at 7 p.m.
“This movie is really to show the families of the veterans who went on the trip what their day was like,” Dave Terflinger of the North Manchester Post # 286 told The Paper of Wabash in an interview.
The Northeast Indiana Honor Flight hub has sent almost 500 WWII veterans, and several veterans from Wabash County are part of that number.
Bart Corricelli, a North Manchester resident and a WWII veteran who served in the Marine Corps went on an Honor Flight in 2010.
“From the time we got off the plane, I have never in my life experienced what I went through there,” Bart told The Paper of Wabash. “There were two lines of people on each side. Everyone was baring flags and flowers. All the way through that thing, I have never been hugged or kissed so many times. These people made me feel like I won that war all by myself. It was absolutely fantastic. When we left and got back on the bus, I said ‘Let’s go back and do this again,’ but they wouldn’t let me,” Bart said with a laugh.
“When you walk through a row of them flags, it does something to you. It was wonderful,” added Charlie Craig, also a North Manchester resident and WWII veteran who served in the Navy. “They really, really make you feel welcomed,” he said.
The main goal of the Honor Flight is to bring veterans to see their memorial. Although WWII veterans are top priority, Korean and Vietnam veterans are also being accepted because WWII veterans are limited.
“It was awe inspiring; it was beautiful,” said Bart. After asking about Indiana, Bart noticed that each state was represented. “It was the absolute greatest thing. Each state had its own section. I ran right over to mine and had my picture taken,” he said.
During the Honor Flight, each veteran is assigned a guardian to assist with any needs. Guardians are volunteers who pay their own way. Sons or daughters of the veterans may act as a guardian if they meet the qualifications.
Gerald Pankop, a WWII Army veteran who also went on an honor flight said, “I had a guardian who was a surgical nurse from South Bend. She took wonderful care of me. She pushed me in a wheel chair and never complained. Every year I send her a Christmas and Easter card. Her name is Kaye Koziatek.”
All three veterans highly recommend the Honor Flight to other veterans.
“What I marvel about the people that put this on for the WWII soldiers, is it just flows, and it’s done so easily. Any veteran should take advantage of the Honor Flight. Just fill out an application and go,” said Charlie.
“A lot of guys were in wheel chairs, and I’ve got to hand it to some of the guys that braved the aches and pains to get out there,” said Bart.
Both Charlie and Bart agree that the trip was fantastic, and they both have the same complaint – that a memorial for WWII veterans didn’t come soon enough.
“The worst thing I thought about it was, I had a bunch of buddies of mine that died and didn’t get to see that thing. It bothers me that it took them 65 years to do this. We were hanging out there like a dead fish on a hook, and then they say hey, let’s build one for the old guys. Or what’s left of them. For those of us that are fortunate enough to see it, it is awe inspiring, but I cannot forget the fact that a lot of my buddies didn’t get to see it,” said Bart.
As for the movie, it will give people the opportunity to see what the veterans experienced that day.
Bart’s wife, Phyllis, plans to attend.
“I think it will be very nice to see it,” she said. Phyllis had a brother who died in the war, and she will get the opportunity to experience the trip that honors her husband and brother through film.
Bart also had three brothers who served in the Army in WWII.
“This generation (WWII veterans), when they got back from war, they didn’t talk about it. They just went back to work and raised their families,” Dave said.
Charlie agreed and said, “When we came home we got off the bus and went back to work. There was no celebration.”
“Yeah, there was no parade. The only people there when we left and when we got back were the Salvation Army with coffee and donuts. And I have a high regard to them. They have a soft spot. They were the last ones to see us off and first ones to see us back,” Bart added.
According to the Honor Flight the movie website, this is the first time many of the veterans have been thanked.
The website states,” It’s uncommon for World War II veterans to talk about the War, but the Honor Flight experience brings their stories out. Many veterans say, with the exception of their wedding day and the birth of their children, the trip is the best day of their life.”
To learn more about the Honor Flight visit www.honorflight.org.
Tickets to the Honor Flight movie are available at Legion Posts in North Manchester, Pierceton and Lagro or at the V.F.W. in Wabash.