It was raining and cold in Washington D.C. when George Peabody arrived on April 19, but his welcome was warm. About 28 WWII veterans and 20 Guardians flew from San Francisco on an Honor Flight Tour to visit the WWII Memorial and see the sights, courtesy of Honor Flight of Northern California.
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The 94-year-old Peabody is not only a WWII veteran, but he is also a historian and genealogist and the author of historical books about El Dorado County and numerous books of poetry. He has lived in the Hank’s Exchange hexagon-shaped home he built with his wife Patricia since 1974, where he continues to write poetry.
The most impressive monument for Peabody was the memorial of the Iwo Jima flag raising at Mt. Suribachi, but the one that touched Peabody was the Korean War Memorial.
“The Iwo Jima memorial is big and so detailed; the artwork is marvelous, but it didn’t grab my heart the same way,” said Peabody.
Peabody described the Korean War Memorial as a park with statues of soldiers dressed in bad weather gear, out on patrol.
“The misery of fighting an enemy you can’t see when you’re wet and cold got to me,” said Peabody, who had been in that situation in WWII. “If you look closely at the granite slabs in the park, they’ve been sandblasted with the images of soldiers in combat. I understood what the artist meant and that was the most emotional of all.”
The group was put up at a “magnificent hotel,” according to Peabody, “where I had a room all to myself.” Guardians and vets were feted in the banquet rooms of the hotel which allowed them to talk together.
“No one was there to say, ‘you’re taking too long,’ so every vet was able to tell his story and some of the Guardians told theirs as well,” said Peabody. “Every minute of this well-organized trip was wonderful, with opportunities to see, hear and to be listened to.”
Some of the WWII vets had never talked about their war experiences with friends or family, but surrounded by other vets who were interested and encouraging, they finally did.
“If we sensed someone was holding back, we went after them to get them to talk. With other guys who had been through it, they felt safe to tell their story,” said Peabody.
There were two other Honor Flight tours from other parts of the country while Peabody’s group was in Washington.
“The co-founder of Honor Flight of Northern California, Debby Johnson, was with us and took complete charge,” said Peabody. “She took roll call every time we got on and off the bus. I introduced myself by saying ‘my friends call me Peabody Bobbity Boo’ and that broke the ice.”
Peabody visited the Arlington National Cemetery, the National World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the U.S. Navy Memorial, the Airforce Memorial and the Washington Monument. Being the historian he is, Peabody noted that California’s memorial stone at the foot of the Washington Memorial landing was cut from El Dorado County’s marble quarry at Ringgold on Oct. 29, 1852.
“It was fun; it was inspirational,” said Peabody. “The Japanese and Germans tried to dominate the world but they failed!”