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Two Local Veterans Recognized with Honor Flight to Washington D.C.

by Amy Wenger on May 25, 2014


Esther and Jim at Esther's home, showing
off the awards and memorabilia they
received during their Honor Flight trip.
Photo Courtesy of Laura Anderson.

Two lifelong Bremen residents were recently lauded for their contributions to the cause of freedom.  Esther Hill and Jim Anderson were both distinguished guests on a recent excursion to Washington D.C., in an adventure designed to salute their military careers and pay tribute to them as veterans.  Hill and Anderson spent an eventful and meaningful day on April 30 touring the city and visiting various national landmarks.

The memorable journey was bestowed upon the pair courtesy of the Honor Flight Network of Northeast Indiana.  The regional auxiliary is just one branch of a nationally sponsored organization that is coordinated through the volunteer efforts and donations from countless individuals.  Those who represent the Honor Flight Network have made it their mission to provide transportation to veterans, free of charge, giving them an opportunity to gather and reflect upon the memorials that stand in recognition of their services.  Every aspect of the travel itinerary is meticulously choreographed, to allow the veterans

Esther Hill with daughter,
Mary Jo Shumaker.  Photo
Courtesy of Laura Anderson.

every chance to see as many places as possible, and each traveler is chaperoned by a companion guardian.  Typically, an Honor Flight give precedence to World War II veterans, which is the era in which both Hill and Anderson were active.

The flight departed from Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base and landed at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., before whisking the guests off for a whirlwind trip along a number of stops, including the World War II memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Women in Military Service to America memorial.  On this particular flight, Hill and Anderson were accompanied by nearly 70 other veterans, ranging in age from approximately 87 to 97 years of age.  Six women were also included in this tour.

Jim Anderson meets with Senator Joe Donnelly.
Photo Courtesy of Laura Anderson.

Both Hill and Anderson noted that while the weather was a little less than ideal, the voyage was exhilarating nonetheless, as they agreed that their venture to the war memorial was among the highlights of the trip.  They both noted that it was a privilege to meet with both Senator Joe Donnelly and Congressman Marlin Stutzman during the course of their day.  Anderson was joined by his son, Fred, as his companion, while Hill was grateful to share the experience with her daughter, Mary Jo Shumaker.

Upon their return to Fort Wayne in the evening hours of a long day, the flight landed at Fort Wayne International Airport, where the veterans were surprised and touched by further accolades, including a spirited crowd of more than 400 friends, family, and community members.  There were flowers, flags, balloons, and musical interludes, as well as gestures of support from local high school cheerleaders and bands, Boy Scout troops, and representatives from the Civil Air Patrol, among others.  The Van Wert High School chapter of the FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America) even arrived with handmade fleece blankets to offer the veterans.

Hill was a member of the Navy WAVES, an acronym for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services.  She served from July of 1944 until October of 1945, working in the field of nursing.  She was stationed at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital in Pennsylvania, and while she enjoyed working with patients, she couldn't quite stomach the task of administering shots, or "pokes," to those she looked over.  She admitted that she sometimes shared that responsibility with other nurses who were more at ease with the procedure, until the time they were found out.  "We got punished a little bit for that," she said with a grin.  She also said that many of the nurses received abbreviated training, as many of the other qualified candidates were being relocated or deployed overseas.

Jim Anderson & Esther Hill at the
airport.  Photo Courtesy of Laura

Hill was awarded the American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal for the time she dedicated to her service.  She voluntarily discharged herself from the service when she became eligible, so that she could marry her husband, George, and relocate to Virginia to be with him.  Hill's husband was also very active in the Navy, having worked with landing craft detail and assisting with the transport of soldiers in the Pacific region. His seven year stint also featured a tenure in Africa.  Eventually, Hill found her way back to Bremen, where she has been a resident ever since.
Anderson moved to Bremen from Nappanee at the age of 2 and was a member of the Bremen High School class of 1940.  After working at the local foundry for a time, Anderson was drafted in July of 1942 and became a member of what was then known as the Army Air Force.  He began his basic training at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, where he became skilled in the specialization of ammunition and materials used to formulate bombs.  He was later transferred to Jackson, Mississippi for further assignments before being dispatched to a small community north of London, England.  While Anderson was there, he worked primarily within office confines, manning the communications, methods, and record keeping through which ammunition and bombs were being transported to various air bases.

Jim Anderson.  Photo Courtesy of Laura

While Anderson was still in the service, the Army and the Air Force became two separate entities, so Anderson was thereafter known as a member of the 8th Air Force.  His time of service spanned nearly three and a half years, from July of 1942 to December of 1945.  He still recalls the long, arduous boat ride back to American soil, a jaunt that extended over two weeks.  One of his first priorities upon coming home was to marry Marian Grise, a wedding that took place just 10 days after his return.  His next tour of duty was expected to carry him to Japan, but the war ended before that trip became a reality.

Hill and Anderson will be among the many veterans whose devotion will be recognized at Bremen's Memorial Day Parade this coming Monday, which begins at 10:30 a.m.  The lineup will begin at the post office and end at the Bremen Cemetery.


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