By Rick Banas of BMA Management, Ltd.
Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011 will be a day that four residents of the Prairie Winds affordable assisted living community that BMA manages in Urbana, Illinois, will never forget.
The four residents are Jim Hall, Ralph Stewart, Bob Whitson and Jim Williford.
Jim, who has lived at Prairie Winds for more than four years, served in the U.S. Army. He was an artillery mechanic during the Invasions of Normandy, Brittany and the Argon Forest and in the Battle of the Bulge. He also served in the Army Occupation of Germany. He was awarded a Silver and five Bronze Stars for his service.
Ralph, who also has lived at Prairie Winds for more than four years, served in the U.S. Navy. He served in the Invasion of Normandy as well as in the Philippines and Borneo. Ralph was on one of the landing crafts that went into Normandy. He was stranded on the beach for more than a week before being evacuated to England.
Bob, who has lived at Prairie Winds for more than three years, also served in the U.S. Navy and also was part of the Invasion of Normandy>. He was on the U.S.S. Herndon. He later was involved in the Invasion of Sicily as a torpedo man first class.
Jim, who moved into Prairie Winds a little over six months ago, served in the U.S. Navy Air Corp. He served on the East Coast of the United States as a radio gunman on torpedo watch.
Lindsay Miller, who has been a CNA at Prairie Winds since the community opened for occupancy in 2007, volunteered her time to serve as the person who accompanied Ralph on the trip.
Thanks to the Honor Flight Network, the Illini Radio Group, and numerous individuals who volunteered their time, the Veterans were truly given the “Red Carpet” treatment.
The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization that provides the free flights for Veterans with help from organizations that raise money for the flights. The Illini Radio Group raised the funds necessary for the Oct. 18 flight in two weeks time.
With those going on the flight needing to be at the airport by 5 a.m., Larry the Flagman had come out the day before and lined both sides of the road leading into Willard Airport in Savoy with more than 700 U.S. Flags. “Without our Veterans, I couldn’t put up the flag,” said Larry, who lives in Little York, Illinois.
Upon arriving at the airport for the flight out to D.C., each of the 75 Veterans were given an orange Honor Flight shirt and a blue Honor Flight fleece so they could be decked out in University of Illinois (UofI) colors.
I had the chance to talk with the four residents of Prairie Winds who were going on the flight before they boarded the plane.
They returned to a reception that they so richly deserve.
Fire trucks, with lights flashing. Several World War II era military planes and vehicles on display. The University of Illinois Marching Band, flags and cheerleaders.
Each Veteran was escorted off the plane by military personnel. They walked under a large U.S. Flag that was waving in the wind and down a Red Carpet that was lined by more than a thousand people, who cheered and expressed their thanks. Many held signs expressing their appreciation.
In the background, the Marching Band played the Songs of the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines.
A little earlier in the evening as a group of us from Prairie Winds were waiting for the plane to arrive, one of the clarinet players in the band came by and introduced herself. She talked about how proud she was to be there. Her husband was in the military and stationed in the Far East.
As we celebrate Veterans Day 11-11-11, we salute each and every man and woman who has served in our Armed Forces. It is because of them that we are able to enjoy our freedoms.
Below are just a few videos taken at the return arrival of the Veterans to the UofI Willard Airport in Champain, Illinois after visiting the Memorials in Washing DC.
The slide show below is of Jim H, Ralph, Bob & Jim W trip and return.
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