It was summer 1945 and Paul Schwind was expecting to leave the Pacific Theater for the states any week.
But the Navy man was attached to a ship and by the time he got home, World War II wasn’t making headlines
"All the glory and celebration was gone. I didn’t get that. Everybody’s back to their normal thing,
working and getting married," said Schwind, who is 85 and lives in Millbury.
Schwind and 54 other veterans got their "thank you" for serving Wednesday when they were taken
on an Honor Flight from Toledo to Washington, D.C.
Since May 2008, Honor Flight Northwest Ohio has flown 256 local veterans to the nation’s capital to see
the WWII Memorial and others in a whirlwind day trip.
There is no cost to the veterans and the Honor Flight network nationwide has flown 18,000 veterans to the
memorial since 2005.
"I can’t begin to tell you," Schwind said, his voice breaking up while talking about the trip
two days later. "The people there, they came up to us and said thanks for saving us – 65 years
When they returned to Toledo Express Wednesday night on the charter flight, there were 500 people
awaiting the veterans, waving flags and marching along to the sounds of the Genoa American Legion Band.
"I got my celebration after all," Schwind said.
Fellow Navy veteran Wayne Schulte got a kick out of seeing Schwind, whom he hadn’t visited with in two
years. When they were on different ships in the Pacific, they’d communicate in code with the vessels’
One of the highlights from Wednesday’s trip was seeing "five other boys from Pemberville that I went
to school with," said Schulte, who is 84 and lives in Stony Ridge.
His daughter, Becky Elston, went along as his guardian. Every veteran on the Honor Flights is accompanied
by a guardian who does everything from taking pictures to helping him get around.
Schulte said he and his daughter wouldn’t mind sharing the Honor Flight experience at a local school.
The trip was also a family affair for Bill Heermeier, 85, of Pemberville. His daughter, Darla Kay
Gefsford, lives in Maryland and met him at the WWII Memorial.
"So I had grandkids and great-grandkids to meet me there," he said. "It was quite a
Heermeier served in the Army’s 11th Airborne Division. He was a replacement and the war ended shortly
after he was activated.
"I got a whole extra $50 a month for being on jump status," Heermeier recalled.
Frank Duncan served in the military for 21 years, starting at age 17 when he became an aircraft crash
rescue firefighter. He’d never been to a memorial, even though he’d served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
"In my early years, I was stationed in and around D.C., the only thing like a memorial that was
there was Arlington National Cemetery," said Duncan, who is 80 and lives in Perrysburg Township.
The WWII Memorial was the last of the big memorials to be built, completed in 2004. That’s why there’s a
sense of urgency to get the WWII veterans there. It’s estimated that 1,200 veterans a day die and that
there are about 6 million in the United States.
The emotion flows through the memorial, starting with the military men and women who greet the veterans
and continuing with the walk around the reflecting pool, said Marice VanDorp.
"I think it’s awesome trip. You can’t believe how awesome it was," said VanDorp, who is 85 and
lives in Rossford.
The Field of Stars – each of the 4,000 stars represents 100 American service members killed in action –
especially moved him.
"If they don’t come out with a tear in their eye, there’s something wrong," he said after
seeing the wall.
Don St. John, Perrysburg, said strangers came up to him at the memorial to shake his hand and thank him.
The 85-year-old was a flight instructor during the war who went on to become plant manager of the
Libbey-Owens-Ford plant in Rossford; he retired in 1983.
"It makes you feel very proud and the people who are just visiting the monument while you’re there,
they make you feel pretty good," St. John said. "They make you feel like, oh, maybe we did