Remembering the Greatest Generation’s triumph

Emotional ceremony at airport commemorates the end of World War II as veteran numbers dwindle
by Verla Peichl Review Correspondent


LT. COL. (RET.) RAYMOND HELMINIAK (middle) was on hand, along with his daughter Lyn Falk (left) and son Jon Helminiak (right), Aviation Heritage Center of Wisconsin executive director, during The Spirit of ’45 - A Celebration of the Ending of WWII event at the Sheboygan County Meorial Airport Saturday, Aug. 15. — Review photo by Verla Peichl LT. COL. (RET.) RAYMOND HELMINIAK (middle) was on hand, along with his daughter Lyn Falk (left) and son Jon Helminiak (right), Aviation Heritage Center of Wisconsin executive director, during The Spirit of ’45 - A Celebration of the Ending of WWII event at the Sheboygan County Meorial Airport Saturday, Aug. 15. — Review photo by Verla Peichl “We were just doing our job, our duty, it was nothing special.”

Those words have been spoken many times by veterans of all wars, but the words of those who served in World War II were the ones that were concentrated on this past Saturday, Aug. 15, at the Aviation Heritage Center at the Sheboygan County Memorial Airport, in the town of Sheboygan Falls.

This was the day that The Spirit of `45 - A Celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Ending of WWII was held and presented to the public by the Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice and the Aviation Heritage Center.


TAPS” WAS PLAYED to close out The Spirit of ’45 - A Celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Ending of WWII event held Saturday at the Sheboygan County Memorial Airport. — Review photo by Verla Peichl TAPS” WAS PLAYED to close out The Spirit of ’45 - A Celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Ending of WWII event held Saturday at the Sheboygan County Memorial Airport. — Review photo by Verla Peichl “We didn’t have a sign-up sheet and I thought maybe 12-15 veterans would show up, but I had no idea the response would be this overwhelming,” Aviation Heritage Center of Wisconsin Executive Director Jon Helminiak told the crowd. “We are gathered here, together, today for two reasons. One, to commemorate the ending of World War II and two, to celebrate a generation of men and women like we may never see again.

“Theese men and women encountered atrocities of the greatest magnitude with a terrible loss,” he said. “450,000 lives were lost for our freedom. The cost was tremendous, but that cost is what makes us able to live in this wonderful, free country. All of us, today, long to return to the way things were in the days of the greatest generation. The days when God, family and country were a main part of their needs. So today we salute you. We salute your hearts, your souls and the passion of your generation.”


HAROLD WENDORF (right) recounted his experiences serving in the U.S. Army during World War II with the help of his son Bud (left), during The Spirit of ’45 - A Celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Ending of WWII event at the Aviation Heritage Center on the grounds of the Sheboygan County Memorial Airport Saturday. — Review photo by Verla Peichl HAROLD WENDORF (right) recounted his experiences serving in the U.S. Army during World War II with the help of his son Bud (left), during The Spirit of ’45 - A Celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Ending of WWII event at the Aviation Heritage Center on the grounds of the Sheboygan County Memorial Airport Saturday. — Review photo by Verla Peichl Angelia Neumann, director of development and communication, at the Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice, also addressed the veterans and the extremely large assembly.

“It is an honor to be here and to serve the Spirit of

45 event,” said Neumann. “This project has been life changing for me. We take great pride at Sharon Richardson to take care of the veterans that come to us for their last journey.”

Rev. David Van Dixhorn, chaplain at the Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice, gave the invocation and closed his message with these words.

“I thank all of us who are here to honor those who are here, not only for ourselves but for those who have sacrificed the highest sacrifice, and those who are in waiting,” Van Dixhorn said. “Guide us through this program with humility like those who have served and help us to live in a Christian country.”

World War II veteran Harold Wendorf of the U.S. Army 32nd Red Arrow Division, 127th Infantry, was introduced by his son Bud.

Harold recounted his experiences while serving three years in combat duty in New Guinea and the Philippines.

“Yes, I remember WWII” said Harold. “I can still hear the screams and the moans and I can still smell the smells of death. My daughter was 2 ½ years old when I came home.”

He then shared some of his war experiences, one in particular, where his company was ahead of another U.S. company and began receiving enemy fire.

“The gunfire was close,” said Harold. “I could feel the bullets hit the ground around us and the company behind us didn’t want to fire for fear of hitting us, so I started yelling and told them how to hit the enemy. At first their gunfire was close to us, so I began yelling to aim higher, higher and we did get out of it.

“I am now 95,” he said. “I’ve had a good life. I thank God all the time that I made it through the war and I now thank you. This was a pleasure to speak to you.”

Jon Helminiak then showed the group a model of a B-17 like the one flown by his father, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Raymond Helminiak and he read a piece that was written by his father.

The piece was titled, “Warbird in Waiting.” The award-winning narrative was written from his viewpoint in the cockpit of a B-17.

“It took us an hour to get into formation for a mission of destruction,” Raymond wrote. “The gunners fire their warm-up boost and a German reception is being prepared for the flyers. They are putting up a smoke screen to cover the target.”

He then recounted how he would never sit in the cockpit of a B-17 again.

The narrative was moving, as was the entire program of pictures, music and recounted events from veterans in the audience such as those from 97-yearold Edgar Kuhlow, 97, POW, and Sy Regan, USMC.

The veterans in attendance made many statements, including the following.

“In WWII everybody played a part, everybody had a role.”

“Eisenhower said that war is both cruel and stupid and we should try not to be in war, but sometimes we don’t have a choice.”

“Our memories are just as fresh as they ever were.”

“War is Hell.”

“The way to victory is difficult, but it’s all about victory.”

Eagle Scout Alec Meyer of Troop 885 and Maria Bellows, Girl Scout Gold Award winner of Troop 8671 gave thanks to the veterans stating, “We love you, we respect you and we salute you. Thank you for your service.”

The Cub Scouts then gave handmade thank-you cards to the veterans while the Northern Lights Singers of Sheboygan North High School sang “America the Beautiful.”

A Mayoral Proclamation was given by Tammy Meyer on behalf of her husband, Sheboygan Falls Mayor Randy Meyer.

“The Victory of WWII was a positive, necessary historical accomplishment that ended atrocities that had occurred. August 15, 1945 not only ended the war, but began years of rebuilding. So on this day, August 15, 2015, I declare this to be the Spirit of ’45 week,” the proclamation stated.

There was a presentation of the Wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier followed by a moment of silence with a retiring of the colors.

A ceremonial rifle salute followed with the completion of “Taps.”

It was an emotional day. Not only for the veterans and their families but all of the friends and relatives who had been in attendance.

The closing words of the day were, “We will never see the greatness of a generation like this again and for that we all love you.”


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