D.C. Trip Triggers Memories for Chardon WWII Veteran
John Taczy captured a few moments at a place where the memory of a period of sacrifice, spirit and service continues to define his generation."Being…
By Rose Nemunaitis
John Taczy captured a few moments at a place where the memory of a period of sacrifice, spirit and service continues to define his generation.
“Being part of the greatest generation is something that I am proud of,” said John, 88, a World War II veteran from Chardon and Largo, Fla.
The Honor Flight of West Central Florida recently made John’s visit to the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. possible.
HFWCF is an official regional hub of the National Honor Flight Network, providing all-expense-paid flights for World War II veterans in the Tampa Bay area to visit their memorials in the nation’s capital.
“It sure was a big surprise and, of course, an honor to go to see all the memorials of all the branches of the military,” John said of his trip. The 80 veterans and their 80 volunteer guardians, complete with wheelchairs, if needed, made up the tour. According to Veterans Administration statistics, there are 1.2 million World War II veterans remaining of the 16 million who served.
“It was an opportunity of a lifetime,” said John’s guardian, Bob Sparks, of Grayson, Ga.
Sparks’ brother accompanied their father.
After their plane landed in Baltimore, veterans rode buses to Washington, D.C., and spent the day visiting all the memorials, except the Washington Monument, which is under repair.
“The plane ride there and back was quiet as many of the vets were anticipating what to expect on the way there. And on the way back, we were in awe of what we had visited,” John said.
His wife, Jan, joined lines of well-wishers who greeted the veterans coming home, holding signs, flags and balloons.
The Taczys met in 1987 in Clearwater, Fla., and married in 2001 at St. Mary’s Church in Chardon.
“It was such a wonderful day for John,” said?Jan, who was born in Hambden Township. “It was so exciting. I was so proud of him when he was selected to go on the honor flight with all the other veterans. Upon their return, I became very emotional and had tears in my eyes.”
The sight triggered memories for Jan.
“I lived during World War II and saw them coming back home to Chardon after the war. That’s something you’ll never forget,” she said.
Being American is something every vet is extremely proud of, having put their lives on the line for their country, John said. He spent 25 years in the military.
“Those of us who went on to make a career of the service have undoubtedly spent time in other countries and have made comparisons of the freedoms we have here,” he said.
Drafted in New Jersey in 1944, John took 16 weeks of basic training in Camp Roberts, Calif., as a radio operator in field artillery.
After 10 days leave, he went back to California and then by ship to a few American-held islands. From there, John went on to the Philippines, where he joined the 158th Regimental Combat Team, the “Bushmasters.”
“After getting settled and assigned and issued some combat gear, we were told we were headed for Okinawa,” he recalled. “However, we found ourselves separated from the initial convoy and headed to make a beach-head in a province in another part of Luzon. We established the beach-head with little resistance, then started preparing for the invasion of Japan.”
He added, “The two atomic bombs changed that and we (became) occupation forces.”
Sparks said he believes John’s generation is “the greatest.”
“What they did in the 1940s was pretty spectacular,” he said.
When John back from D.C., he said the reception the vets received as pretty spectacular, too.
“There were bands playing and dignitaries lined on each side of the corridor for well over a football field,” he said.
“I never had so many hands to shake in all of my life.”
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