When World War II ended, and service men and women came back home, there wasn’t much fanfare. Soldiers and sailors just went home and restarted their lives. Now, some of those who served are getting a chance to get the closure and thanks they deserve by going to visit memorial sites in Washington, D.C., with Honor Flight Bluegrass Chapter.
Harold Levy, 92, had that opportunity in May. Last year, he read about the Honor Flight program in The Courier-Journal, and he applied. He didn’t hear anything about it for nearly a year until he got a call at the beginning of May.
“I got a call asking did I want to go on the Honor Flight, and I said, ‘Of course!’”
Honor Flight is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization created to honor America’s veterans for their sacrifices.
The organization flies heroes to Washington to visit and reflect at their memorials for their service, sacrifices and memories.
The organization gives top priority to those Veterans from any war or conflict that have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, those whose end of life is near and World War II survivors.
Levy, who now lives in a nursing home, can’t say enough good things about his trip. From the excellent pilots to the well-managed organization, his visit to Washington was one to remember.
There were 120 veterans on the flight, and each veteran was assigned a helper to stay by his or her side through the entire trip. The veterans are all elderly, and many have illnesses and need assistance.
Their first stop was Arlington National Cemetery, where they learned that there are more than 400,000 graves. “All you saw up hills and down hills and in valleys were headstones. I couldn’t imagine that many people in one specific area. It boggles the mind,” Levy said.
The group visited two other monuments that day.
“We couldn’t believe it because there must have been 3,000-4,000 people, all waving flags and wanting to shake our hands,” Levy said. “It was so exciting because, to tell you the truth, when I was discharged in 1945, we just came home. There was no acknowledgement of any kind.
“My father said after a week of me sitting at home, ‘Are you gonna sit around the rest of your life?’ So I went and got my job back.”
At every stop on the trip, the group was swarmed with well-wishers who thanked them for their service and wanted to shake their hands.
“We were worn out! It was little kids, grown people, they all came over and shook your hand, ‘Thank you for your service,’ and it’s exciting, but very tiring,” he said.
When they headed back toward home, the veterans were happy to be coming to the Louisville International Airport where there wouldn’t be any people waiting for them. They were wrong.
“Well, that was just a fallacy! There was a mob there. I may exaggerate the size of the crowd but not the enthusiasm.”
Levy said the whole trip, while tiring, really made him feel the appreciation of the public.
“Nobody really cared when we came home,” he said. “That was the feeling that most of us had. But when you go through this whole trip and realize that people really did care. And these were not just people who had relatives in the service. These were people who were genuine.
“It was a wonderful, wonderful trip,” Levy observed. “Any man that was in the service who doesn’t take advantage and try to take that trip, he’s missing something.”
Levy has already talked another veteran in his nursing home into signing up for a flight.
Levy moved to Louisville at age 3 from Pennsylvania and was raised here. He was in the U.S. Army Air Corps for four years until 1945. While in the Air Corps, he never left Kentucky because of his vision. “I guess they thought I’d shoot the wrong people,” he joked.
When he returned, he began a career in retail and eventually was manager of a Ben Snyder department store. He is a member of Anshei Sfard Synagogue.