Bert Joe Simko saw plenty of action during his four years of military service, but later in life he never had a chance to see the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Simko passed away three years before the memorial was dedicated in 2004. However, thanks to the generosity of his family, other members of the "Greatest Generation" will have that opportunity as Honor Flight Northwest Ohio conducts another mission to the nation’s capital.
Simko’s daughters, Judie Simko and Susan Enck, wanted to honor their father in a special way. The result: an Honor Flight dedicated to the service, the accomplishments and the memory of Bert Simko. On Wednesday, August 25th The Bert Simko Honor Flight will carry 24 World War II veterans on their “Trip of a Lifetime.” Among them willl be veterans from Oregon, Millbury, Pemberville, Toledo, Sylvania, Maumee, Temperance, Rossford, Perrysburg, Waterville, Bowling Green, Norwalk and North Baltimore.
Bert joined the Army in July of 1942 and served in the 100th Infantry Division. He was part of the Central Europe Campaign and the Rhineland Campaign, but his march to Berlin was cut short in March of 1945.
Technical Sergeant Simko was leading his squad as they attacked Germans in a small French town when a shell exploded nearby. Shell fragments ripped through an artery in his arm, sending him to the hospital and ending his combat service.
(Note: Now-a-days we hear so much about “smoking kills,” but in the case of Bert Simko, cigarettes may have saved his life. Bert did not smoke, but he always carried cigarettes for the other men in his squad. The shell fragment that cut his arm also cut open a carton of cigarettes. Bert believed that the tobacco that spilled into the wound caused the blood to coagulate and helped to stop the bleeding.)
Bert Simko was honorably discharged from the service in January of 1946 and brought home a number of medals. Those included The Purple Heart, The Bronze Star, The Combat Infantry Badge, and The World War II Victory Medal.
Judie Simko, Susan Enck and Susan’s husband, Jim, will all serve as guardians on The Bert Simko Honor Flight.
Honor Flight Northwest Ohio is a 501(c)(3) all-volunteer organization dedicated to flying veterans to the nation’s capital. Flights are funded through the generosity of northwest Ohioans. Air transportation, luxury motor coach, meals and other amenities are provided to the veterans without charge. Wednesday’s flight will offer the veterans much more than just a look at the World War II Memorial. The honored guests will also have an opportunity to see The Korean War Veterans Memorial, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, The Marine Corps Memorial and The Arlington National Cemetery for the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Honor Flight Northwest Ohio was established in 2008 and has safely escorted 389 veterans to Washington, D.C. on 14 flights. But there are still nearly 500 men and women on the waiting list. Veterans are selected for flights based on their date of application. Across the country thousands of veterans are hoping to experience an Honor Flight. Since its inception in 2005 the Honor Flight Network has transported over 40,000 veterans to the nation’s capital. There are now Honor Flight hubs in over 30 states. Donations may be sent to: Honor Flight Northwest Ohio P.O. Box 23018 Toledo, Ohio 43623 For more information go to www.honorflightnwo.org.