Saturday, June 11, 2011
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4 Lincoln veterans to go on Honor Flight

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[June 11, 2011]  Wilbur Wilmert, Don Wheal, Don Fink and Clyde Camp will be leaving for a one-day tour of our nation's armed forces memorials in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

(Click on pictures below for larger images.)

InsuranceThe program that will take our vets is called the Land of Lincoln Honor Flight. Honor Flight is a nationwide network dedicated to providing World War II veterans a free trip to the nation's capital to visit memorials honoring their service and sacrifice. Springfield has established a newly formed 501(c)(3) nonprofit hub for the Honor Flight Network.

Wilmert was in the U.S. Army and was assigned initially to a searchlight battalion. In a bit of irony, Wilbur, who worked for the post office, was sorting mail when he came upon the draft notice addressed to him. He said he wanted to be a pilot and had signed up for the change in military occupation code when word came down that no more pilots were needed. He went to Germany and was involved in rescuing the GIs who were encircled at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. Wilmert has been to the World War II Memorial but said he looks forward to seeing it and the other memorials again. His son, Dr. Jim Wilmert, will accompany him on the trip.


Don Wheal was drafted into the U.S. Army in mid-1945 and was sent to the Philippines in the Pacific Theater. Wheal said vivid memories included his ship going under the Golden Gate Bridge on the way. He also remarked that his 32nd Infantry Division replaced a Native American division that had been in combat for 654 straight days. Don said he needed money as a young man, so he joined the Reserves after the war. That put him back in the Army for the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. He has not seen the memorial to WWII vets and looks forward to the trip.

Don Fink enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1944 right out of Beason High School and said joining the Navy was the best thing he ever did. Don, a farm boy, had never seen anything outside the area, and in the Navy he had an opportunity to learn a lot. A fireman first class in the Navy, he recalled his ship going through the Panama Canal on the way to repairs in San Pedro, Calif., after the USS O'Neill, a destroyer escort, took damage from a kamikaze plane off Okinawa. Fink also hasn't seen the World War II Memorial.

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Clyde Camp joined the Army National Guard in 1940 and was mustered into the infantry in March 1941. He spent 28 months in the South Pacific Theater and was discharged in October 1945. Camp said he has many memories, but perhaps the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima was the most vivid. At the time, his unit was training for the invasion of Honshu, one of the principal Japanese islands, and the A-bomb removed the need for an invasion by sea and land forces.

The Honor Flight day is a busy one, with the vets taking off early Tuesday and coming home late at night, but they all look forward to the experience.

All expenses for the one-day trip are the sole responsibility of Land of Lincoln Honor Flight, including the flight, ground transportation, meals, snacks, beverages and all incidentals. The trip is provided absolutely free of charge to the veterans; they cannot spend their own money. Trained volunteer guardians provide assistance and accompany veterans on their flight. Honor Flight also gives top priority on every trip to a veteran of any war who has a terminal illness.

[Text from Land of Lincoln Honor Flight file and Mike Fak]

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