Montgomery – Approximately 80 veterans, along with their guardians and families, arrived at Montgomery’s Regional Airport Saturday night after participating in the 2nd WWII Honor Flight to the nation’s capital. They were treated to a visit of the World War II memorial which was opened to the public on April 29, 2004.
A large crowd gathered to welcome them home from their day in Washington, DC. Filled with praise and emotion, friends, family, and others waved their flags and cheered them on.
George and Patti Saylor of Millbrook, who made the Honor Flight, graciously stopped to chat. “We met at Maxwell, but didn’t get married until after the war when she was stationed in Japan,” George Saylor said.
Patti Saylor was in the Cadet Nurse Corps, having studied nursing in Kansas City. She attained the rank of First Lieutenant in the Air Force. “The President said at the time that there was a real need for nurses,” Patti Saylor said.
George Saylor was a pilot in the Air Force, completing the phenomenal number of 233 combat missions in the China-Burma-India Theater of World War II. Some have remarked how that was the “forgotten theater” of the war because both the European and Pacific Theaters received more media coverage, as well as manpower and resources. But, George Saylor had all but forgotten that time when the Japanese had invaded China.
George Saylor served in the 3rd Combat Cargo Group, 10th Combat Cargo Squadron, and faced enormous obstacles beginning with “flying the hump” route over the Himalayas, the world’s tallest mountain chain. “We dropped troops, even mules, into the jungles,” he said, and his wife added, “You know jeeps wouldn’t make it in the jungles so you had to use mules.” “The funny thing is, he continued, when you dropped mule feed from the C-47, you had to “double-bag” it in order for the sack not to burst before it hit the ground. Those mules had to be fed.”
Jesse Aldridge, who resides in Montgomery, remarked that he really enjoyed the trip. He served as a Merchant Marine in World War II. Aldridge laughingly said that he “had been on many types of ships — troop transports, liberty ships, and tankers…even a cattle ship!” He went on to explain that “they had once shipped 500 cows and 10 horses to the jungles of Venezuela and that was not easy to do at all!”
The Merchant Marines played a vital role in the Allied victory of World War II, carrying much-needed supplies to the war front, across as many as 6,000 miles of ocean.
Aldridge’s tour of duty spanned from January of 1944 until July of 1946. After his military service he retired after 32 years of working at the National Weather Service.
Richard Bennett, another veteran, has lived in Montgomery for the past ten years since his retirement as a Chiropractor in Waukegan, Illinois. He served with the Army Medics as a Surgical Technician, stationed in Chester, England. “We were there before D-Day,” he said. Then, with his voice filled with emotion, he added, “After D-Day, we would tend to the wounded and then send them back.”
The World War II memorial is dedicated to the 16 million who served in the U. S. armed forces, to the more than 400,000 who died, and to the people who supported these brave men and women from the United States home front. The memorial was funded almost entirely by private contributions and the campaign has received approximately $200 million in cash and pledges.
Article by Melissa Parker
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