Honoring The “Greatest Generation”

Family and friends welcomed home 89-year-old Army veteran Leonard Berkshire. Len was among the 80 Chicagoland veterans who took a special one-day trip to Washington, D.C. There he and his daughter Wendy toured the different monuments.

“It was just a sad experience that so many men on that wall had been wasted away in all these wars,” said Berkshire about the Vietnam Memorial
“Just watching all the vets’ expressions as they walked around and just reflecting on what they went through, you can’t even imagine what they went through,” said daughter Wendy Matthews. “Just a touching day.”

Berkshire voluntarily joined World War II when he was 20 years old after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Decades later, he finally got the homecoming he never had but his family says he deserves.

“Oh it brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t explain the emotions I felt when I saw all these people gathered here,” Berkshire said about the recent homecoming.

Berkshire’s daughter Nancy Cook drove nine hours from Arkansas to welcome him home from his trip. She said wouldn’t have missed it for anything else in the world. “We wouldn’t be here without him. Life would not be what it is today,” she said. “ He’s a great, great man. I’m very proud of him.”

Honor Flight Chicago is an organization that provides World War II veterans from the Chicago area with a free trip to the nation’s capital and a special homecoming upon their return. Since beginning in 2008, more than 1,000 local veterans have experienced the Honor Flight.

“I didn’t think so many people cared about us anymore. You know, kind of just letting these old guys fade away,” said Berkshire. And it’s hard to imagine looking at all these old guys that they were once young guys that ran up through beach heads and up mountains and in the line of fire all the time.”

“I think it takes experiences like this to make you realize everything that they went through in their lifetime,” said Berkshire’s granddaughter, Kristin Matthews.
Volunteers with Honor Flight Chicago are planning seven more flights this year. They already have a waiting list of 1,000 veterans eager to share this experience.

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