Fox Valley veterans from World War II through Afghanistan share insights into service
Valerie Burd For The Beacon-News November 12, 2012 12:40PM
Richard Missing tells story of his service during World War II in the Merchant Marines and Navy during a Veterans Appreciation Program sponsored by the Chapel on the Green Historical Society in Yorkville on Sunday, November 11, 2012. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 14, 2012 6:07AM
YORKVILLE — From the landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy during World War II, through the Korean War, to manning peacetime Cold War missile sites through the Vietnam era, and to the current fighting going on today in Afghanistan, veterans from around the Fox Valley shared their stories for Veterans Day at Yorkville’s Chapel on the Green.
Chapel on the Green President Fred Dixon, in introducing the 10 veterans to the audience of about 100, said he hoped this second program would be part of an annual event honoring “those who’ve served our country.”
The co-chairmen for the event, Joan McEachern and Linda Blake, agreed.
“We got guys from World War II, from all the wars,” Blake said before the program. “I think they enjoy this opportunity to reminisce together and compare their war experiences. We want to use this Chapel for community events. This is a great event to hold here.”
The event especially touched one of the speakers — Vietnam era veteran Bill Schell, a teacher from Yorkville, who served with the Army from 1963 to 1965. Schell said he remembers returning from Vietnam and going back to college to find protesters who were not friendly to Vietnam vets.
“Those demonstrations buried my idea of being proud of my service,” he said. “One of the things that helped me be proud was when the Moving Wall came to Aurora. I consider myself very lucky to have been there and come home. I’m glad today our veterans are treated with honor and respect.”
The program began with former Yorkville mayor and chiropractor Robert Coleman, who told about fighting on Omaha Beach in 1944, and then following Gen. George Patton through France to Paris. At the end of the war, Coleman said, he was in Nuremberg in Germany, and near Berlin, where his unit joined up with the Russians.
“I saw gas chambers and people’s corpses stacked up. It’s a sight I’ll never forget.”
Another World War II veteran, Richard Missing, a retired pharmacist from Aurora, fought with the Navy in the Philippines. He said he was kept from being promoted to a second class boatswain’s mate soon after leaving basic training because he was colorblind, but eventually was made a flagmaster despite his disability.
“I had to fake it a lot,” he added, chuckling.
He ended his career aboard the battleship the USS Nevada.
He said there was no homecoming celebration when he got out of the service — but then, two years ago, he went on an Honor Flight, a program which flies veterans to Washington, D.C., to view the World War II Memorial.
“I think 2,500 showed up at the airport to greet us when we came back,” he said.
Fred Wayne from Yorkville said he learned truck maintenance as a young Army draftee in 1950. His reminiscences of Korean combat mirrored the popular TV series, “M.A.S.H.”
“I was in the motor pool,” he recalled. “Half of what we got we got from supply; the other half we had to make up ourselves. Eventually all our stuff got in bad shape. Our trucks didn’t have brakes. I didn’t have the training, but I learned quick.”
He said that at one point they didn’t have officers.
“The guy who was there the longest was the guy who had the authority. Finally an officer came, and he was going to teach us some things. He held reveille. He was the only one who showed up.”
Jim Folmer, originally from Pontiac but now a long-time Yorkville resident, said he wanted to be a pilot when he joined the Air Force in 1947, but couldn’t because he didn’t have a college degree. Instead, he was trained to be a mechanic, working on jet planes in Guam and Okinawa.
“It was the best experience of my life,” Folmer said. “I went to work every morning and I loved every minute of it!”
Other veterans who spoke this year included: Yorkville resident John Sneider, who served in the Navy from 1944 to 1946; Otto Osterland from Naperville, who served in the Army in Germany from 1955 to 1957; Duane Orton from Lisbon, who served in the Army from 1956 to 1958; Lenny Devick from Yorkville, a Vietnam era veteran who served in the Army from 1967 to 1968; and Jaret Boon, a Yorkville resident who served with the Marines in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2011.