MUNSTER — Larry Weiss had his hesitations at first when he was asked to hop on a plane at 6:15 a.m. and travel to Washington, D.C. for a day, returning home at roughly 14 hours later.
But after talking with other veterans and watching videos of the men and women returning from the flight, the World War II veteran decided he would give Honor Flight a try.
Weiss, 91, joined more than 100 other veterans Wednesday to participate in Honor Flight Chicago’s 92nd flight. The trip flew three World War II, 19 Korean War and 81 Vietnam War veterans to the nation’s capital to experience the memorials built in their honor.
“All the other heroes that have gone on this trip that I have talked to had a wonderful time,” Weiss said days before the flight took off. “The last time I was there (Washington), I saw the Vietnam memorial, but the others weren’t up yet. The World War II memorial was the last to go up. I look forward to seeing that.”
Weiss, now a resident at Hartsfield Village in Munster, was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1946. After completing basic training at Fort Knox, Weiss joined the 10th Mountain Division, a group that specialized in mountain and winter warfare.
“I did mountain climbing, and by the time the skiing came around, they found out I was a good typist, so they had me do courts and boards after that. I was in charge of legal work,” Weiss said. “I had all the mountain training, but after (World War II) ended if they found out anyone could type, that got you doing that. There was a big demand for that work.”
Weiss said serving in the Army was “the best investment I ever made,” as it helped put him through college, where he earned two degrees. He would later became a successful businessman.
“I would have never been able to do it without being in the service,” Weiss said recently at Hartsfield Village, sitting next to Korean War veteran Joel Nederhood.
Nederhood, an 88-year-old veteran, will be participating in Honor Flight in September.
He served in the Army from 1952 to 1954.
After completing basic training in infantry, Nederhood served as a field communications wireman stationed with the 29th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) in Okinawa.
“We were responsible for putting telephone communications through in combat situations. I just thank the Lord that. … I was on a troop ship going over there to the South Pacific and we didn’t end up in Korea itself. If we did, I wouldn’t be here today because they like to get these guys down from the telephone poles,” Nederhood said, while mimicking a wireman being shot down. ‘Pop!’ They were very good targets.”
Nederhood said there were moments he was worried during the war.
“For quite a while, I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not,” he said.
But the veteran doesn’t regret anything he did in the service and, in fact, he said he learned a lot from those experiences that would change the rest of his life.
“The military — the whole matter of command and obedience is special. Once you have experienced it, there’s nothing else like it. You are changed,” Nederhood said. “When you were told to do something, you did it. You had no choice. We did it because we loved our country. We were proud to be in and protect it.”
The two veterans said they are thankful for the opportunity to travel to Washington, which comes at no cost. The Honor Flight organization covers the roughly $1,200 expense for each veteran.
Over the last 10 years, the Chicago chapter has flown and honored more than 8,000 veterans.
“We are here to honor them, give them the ‘thank yous’ that those generations didn’t always get,” Len Sherwinski, Honor Flight coordinator, said in a previous Times report.