As We Honor Veterans

By: Joyce Forney, Bugle Staff Writer

November 2014, Issue 395

November 11 is a Flag-Flying Day. Fighting officially ceased on 11/11/18, ending World War I. When they signed the Treaty of Versailles the following June, it was titled “The War To End All Wars.” Would that it were so! This was the date approved in 1938 as a national holiday to honor American veterans of all wars. Initially, it was called Armistice Day. President Gerald Ford settled on November 11 as the date on which to honor both deceased and living veterans and to thank them for their service. He called it “Veterans Day.”

At Presbyterian Village North we honor the 125 veterans in our midst as well as the brothers and sisters, fathers, sons, and daughters who served in our military forces or in the auxiliary units that provided medical care, transportation, and ministry.

Recently we were treated to an account by Major John “Lucky” Luckadoo (USAF-RET.) of his trip to see the Normandy beaches where so many gave their lives on D-day, 1944. The seventieth anniversary was marked by a great outpouring of gratitude and love on the part of the French, for whom it was a reprieve from Nazi domination. The school teachers have built that remembrance into the curriculum and many school children were there to witness. The young French couple who hosted Lucky and his friend ex-pressed their gratitude throughout their ten-day stay. Government officials and top brass ceremonialized their expression and Lucky received the French Legion of Honor. Yet Lucky had never set foot in France during the war, though he did participate in the aerial bombing in preparation for D-day.

He and his best friend and fraternity brother thought about going to Canada and joining the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940 to get a jump on those in the U.S. in getting flight training. That required pa-rental consent, which Lucky’s parents were unwilling to give. But all that changed with Pearl Harbor Day (12/7/41) and he enlisted in the US Air Force. Following nine months of flying school, he and forty of his classmates were assigned as copilots to the One Hundredth Bomb Group, later to become known as “the Bloody Hundredth.” October 8, 1943, was pivot-al. That was his twenty-second and worst mission, when they lost twelve of eighteen B-27’s in the group. Lucky came back on three engines. He said, “The flak was so dense we could almost land on it.” His plane was badly shot up but the crew was all OK. That depletion of the group caused Lucky to become the Squadron Operations Manager which meant he planned the sorties for his squadron after that.

For Lucky, a high point of his trip was hearing the stories of men who’d come ashore on Normandy Beach on D-day, and hearing those who had been air dropped tell of the perils they faced. Viewing the beach and the obstacles those men faced, and then seeing the enormous cemeteries where their buddies are interred was sobering. However, in the air where Lucky flew twenty-five missions, the challenges were also great. Only four of his forty classmates survived. Hence, the nickname “Lucky.”

Those of us who stayed at home met many challenges, too. But none so life-threatening. Our heart-felt thanks go to those who were in the trenches, or in the air, or on the sea to fight for our freedom in all our wars.