WWII veterans celebrated for their service
HIGHLAND — John Goodpaster left home to join the U.S. Army’s 11th Airborne to fight in World War II.
Like thousands of other veterans, decades later he flew on an Honor Flight out of Chicago’s Midway Airport, a program taking veterans to the World War II memorial and others in Washington, D.C.
On Wednesday, he joined 120 other veterans for what several called a rare occasion: a moment to be celebrated and honored for their service.
Most of them had already been on an Honor Flight, but several said the lunch was the first time they had been celebrated for their service.
“I always said if my mother would’ve treated me this good, I wouldn’t have joined the Army,” Goodpaster joked. “It’s nice to be remembered like this.”
The Northwest Indiana Veterans Action Council, along with Honor Flight-Chicago, hosted the men and women for a pre-Veterans Day luncheon at Wicker Park in Highland.
The veterans and their spouses or children chatted, laughed, and remembered, but they feel absolutely silent during the posting of colors. Later, they enjoyed a free lunch and more memories.
“It’s about treasuring them and never forgetting,” said Michael Sparber, chairman of the council and the father of an Iraqi war vet. “These folks went through the Great Depression, and, before it was 100 percent over, they were called to fight in a world war.”
Local politicians spoke briefly, as did retired Maj. Gen. Dean Sangalis, and, eventually, similar events will be held for Korean War and Vietnam War vets, said Kathy Kazmierczak, vice chairman of the council and the driving force behind the lunch.
“This luncheon is just a very, very small thing we can do for you for the major thing you did for us,” she told the veterans.
William Smith Jr., of Hammond, wearing a U.S. Army cap, said he also had never been honored for his service. He also spoke of his Honor Flight making a special trip over Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where he served.
“I think it’s great,” Smith said, while buttering a slice of bread. “There’s no other way to describe it.”