Thanks to a generous donation from an anonymous World War II donor, Honor Flight of Northwest Ohio held a special flight Tuesday, Oct. 23 for veterans of the Vietnam War.
Honor Flight of Northwest Ohio is a non-profit organization formed in 2007 to send the veterans of Northwest Ohio to Washington, DC to see the memorials built to honor their service. To date, 1240 veterans have flown on 27 flights to see their memorials.
Founded by Earl Morse in 2005, the Honor Flight network is comprised of 101 regional hubs in 39 states.
|Rich Turturice and Paul Norton, both of Oregon, were among
area Vietnam veterans who made the trip to Washington D.C.
on a special Honor Flight Oct. 23.
According to David Chilson, a Honor Flight Northwest Ohio board member, no other hub in the U.S. has flown a dedicated flight just for veterans of the Vietnam War.
“We not only take Korean War and World War II veterans, we also take Vietnam veterans which is a first and is unique,” Chilson said. “The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was dedicated in 1982. Our intent, for the most part, has been to take veterans who have not seen it before. We are getting vets to see the wall that was built and dedicated in their honor.”
Chilson, a veteran himself, said he believed honoring vets who served in Vietnam is long overdue.
“Unfortunately, in many cases, they (Vietnam veterans) did not receive the kind of welcome home or reception that the WWII vets received,” he said. “During WWII and Korea, like the soldiers coming home today, they came home as a unit, in a group.
During Vietnam, people went to war and came home as individuals after doing a 12-month tour. The men and women who served were fulfilling their obligation and their duty. They have not been thanked or honored in the way they deserve. In large part, we are trying to make up for that.”
Chilson said this special flight was paid for by an anonymous donor.
“He passed away early this calendar year,” Chilson said. “He specified in his will that he wanted to sponsor a flight but, it had to be entirely Vietnam veterans. He did this in honor of his son.”
Approximately 150 veterans will be on the flight, Chilson said adding that WW II and Korean War veterans who were due to be on the next flight in the spring, will still travel next spring.
Richard Benson, of Northwood, said he was thrilled to be included on the flight. “We were not treated great when we came back,” Benson said. “I am glad to be going. I have always wanted to see the memorial.”
Benson served four years in the United States Air Force as a jet engine mechanic, from 1968 through 1970, at the RAF Milton Hall, in Bedfordshire, England.
“I am trying to get ready for the trip,” Benson said. “I am trying to get ready for the emotions I will be feeling there. I appreciate what is being done for us. I am thankful for it.”
Richard Turturice, of Oregon, will also be making the fall trip.
Turturice served in Vietnam in 1967 in the U.S. Army as a detachment combat engineer with the 39th Combat Engineer Company. He said he was involved in seven combat missions.
“We were a loner outfit,” Turturice said. “Anytime another outfit was missing people they would just take us and put us with other guys. I was with the marines for a while, the Koreans for a while, I was all over. I got to see a lot of the country. We were on the move.
We went from the southern tip of Vietnam to just south of the DMZ.”
Although he was drafted, Turturice said he was proud to serve his country. “I wanted to do what I could do for my country even though we were not accepted,” he said. “It was a hard thing to do, but things were different back then. When I came home, I was 20 years old and served a year. It feels really great and I feel honored that we have this opportunity. I feel that some of the things that were taken from the veterans at that time, well, we are slowly getting them back.”
Turturice said he too is very excited to be able to see the wall in person.
“It is a once-in-a-lifetime deal and I have been wanting to go for a long time and have not had the opportunity to do it,” he said. “It makes me feel good, but it also makes me feel for the soldiers and the families of today’s warfare. You never forget war.”
Currently a charter boat captain and owner of Crazy Lady Charter Services on Lake Erie, Turturice said he still has a tough time when people say the Vietnam War was not a “real” war.
“It is still tough when people say Vietnam was not a war,” Turturice said. “There were 58,000 American soldiers that died over there. We need to recognize them. I thank today’s servicemen and women for their volunteer service. Freedom isn’t free. It is a sacrifice no matter how you look at it.”
Other area veterans who will be on board Honor Flight include: George Gaertner (Marine Corps, Paul Puls (Air Force), Jerry Rife (Air Force), Eugene Shurtz, Jr (Army), Ralph Walker (Army), and Raul Hernandez, Jr.(Marine Corps) all from Oregon; Jackie Kidd (Army), David Sims (Army) and Randall Sachs (Army) from Millbury; Raymond Robarge (Army) and Dennis Skorich (Army), of Northwood;
Jose Andaverde (Army) of Genoa; Candelario Longoria, Jr (Navy) of Elmore; Martin Bretz (Navy) of Pemberville; Barbara Krzewinski (Navy) of Fremont; Frederick Nowak (Army) of Lakeside-Marblehead; Gary Tabbert (Air Force) of Martin; George Brzeczek (Marine Corps), of Helena; Robert Dendinger (Army)of Bellevue, and Vater Webb (Marine Corps) of Graytown.
If you would like to sponsor a veteran for a future flight or for more information on Honor Flight Northwest Ohio, visit the website at http://www.honorflightnwo.org/.