Oswego resident and World War II veteran Laird Hettrich turned 97 last week. To celebrate, his family arranged for current Air Force members to come out and honor Laird’s service, hear his stories and listen to any wisdom he’d have to offer.
“Any advice? Oh I’d have a lot of advice,” said Laird Hettrich World War II veteran.
During the war, Hettrich was stationed in Europe and tracked pilots’ flight and combat time, service for which he received a ‘Victory in Europe’ medal once the war was over.
Honoring a Hero
Laird’s son Scott Hettrich arranged the meeting, and asked for a brand new ‘Victory in Europe’ medal to be presented to his father, and the Air Force was happy to oblige. Scott says his father’s time in World War II and the stories he would tell as a veteran, is what inspired him to become a history teacher. He was happy to see his father honored once again.
“Oh it meant a lot, it meant a lot to our family. You know, my dad is 97 so we don’t know how many more birthdays he’s going to have and he’s one of only about 5 people still living in about a 1,000 person fighter group, and I think in his squadron he’s the only person left living. So it’s a bit of history that’s going to disappear when he passes and to hear his stories…you know… you don’t hear those stories in the history books,” said Scott Hettrich, Laird’s son.
Reflecting on the Past
Lieutenant Colonel Russell Klawitter presented the new Victory in Europe medal to Hettrich, but all the Air Force veteran present had a chance to talk and listen to the near centenarian hero.
“I think I re-learned today just the importance of honoring our veterans just sitting down with them and talking with them and being encouraged by them. That’s the key takeaway, and by rekindling and remembering our history from the people that saw it, that were there…There’s no greater thing than to witness it again, to remind us of what we do every day,” said Lieutenant Colonel Russell Klawitter with the United States Air Force
When asked if he had any life advice to share, Laird Hettrich had this to say:
“Just do the best you can…and it’ll all work out pretty good.” said Hettrich.
Naperville News 17’s Ryan Skryd reports.
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