‘Peabody Bobbity Boo’ goes to Washington
GEORGE PEABODY sits in his home in Hank's Exchange. The WWII veteran was flown to Washington, D.C. to see the sights by Honor Flight of Northern California. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene
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.
Honor Flight of Northern California is a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring America’s veterans for all their sacrifices by flying these American heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. All expenses, including food and lodging are paid for by Honor Flight and volunteers, known as Guardians, are assigned to each vet to take care of all veterans’ needs.
Bud Sweet, U.S. Marine of the Fleet Reserve Association and owner of Sweet Septic, picked Peabody up at his home and drove him and Peabody’s son, Geoffrey, to the San Francisco airport.
“When I got there, I was given a Guardian, Marine Sgt. Michael Emerson, who decided I should be in a wheelchair,” said Peabody, who still suffers with a leg wound he received at Iwo Jima. “I was almost insulted because I can get around pretty well on my crutches, but I agreed, and it was a good thing I did because I got to go to a lot of places and see things I otherwise wouldn’t have.”
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!”
On the way home, Peabody wore his Experimental Aircraft Association badge, his Marine Corps service pin and his Purple Heart. With a wheelchair, he was the last person to get off the plane and his arrival was greeted by “hundreds of people clapping, cheering and screaming. It was a little embarrassing,” he said.
As he was wheeled into the airport, the crowd of people fell in behind him.
“A lot of people had never seen a Purple Heart before and they wanted to look at it, feel the weight of it and take photographs of it,” said Peabody. “The children were the most touching. I was given a packet of letters children had written to me and I am going to answer every single one of them.”
“I never had such a wonderful experience,” said Peabody, “but I was glad when I was back home, warm and dry and being ignored.”
Pam Kaufman of Pollock Pines accompanied this group of veterans as a Guardian.
“I read a Mountain Democrat article about it and was inspired to sign up,” Kaufman said. She said she was “overwhelmed — but in a good way.”
“I didn’t realize who these guys are,” she said. “They are heroes, gracious and humble. Their stories are remarkable and heartwrenching. These are real men who picked right back up where they left off after going through some horrific experiences. On the bus with them, I felt surrounded by giants — huge, honorable, courageous giants — and I’ll be glad to serve as a Guardian again if needed.”
Also on the Honor Flight were WWII veterans Ralph Davies from El Dorado Hills and Earl Isaacson from Shingle Springs.
Peabody doesn’t know who nominated him for the Honor Flight tour, but veterans or other individuals can go to honorflightnorcal.org to sign up for a flight or to volunteer as a Guardian. Family members can serve as Guardians, but they must pay for their own flight.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.
Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene