Wednesday, July 23, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Honor Flight takes vets to Washington

PAT_2217e

WORLD WAR II veterans left to right, Bill Flynn, 92, Diamond Springs, Ron Jermstad, 86, Camino, and Jim Kessler, 93 from Placerville talk about their Honor Flight adventure to Washington D.C. gather for a group photo. Democrat photo by Pat Dollins

By
From page B2 | January 16, 2013 |

Together they have 271 years of life. Separately they have each served their country in time of war and lived to tell of it.

Now they jokingly call themselves “The Wheelchair Brigade.”

In July of 2012, Jim Kessler of Placerville, Bill Flynn of Diamond Springs and Ron Jermstad of Camino got on a plane headed for Washington D.C. where they were honored for their contribution of service to the people of the United States.

At Kessler’s home, the three talk of their Honor Flight adventure and of the action they saw in World War II.

Jermstad, the youngest of the trio at 86, served in the Army Air Corps and the Navy for 24 years, beginning in 1944.

He was still in flight training in the Army Air Corps when World War II ended. He was discharged in 1945, but accepted a commission in the Navy in 1948. He retired from the Navy as a Lt. Commander in 1968, having flown every type of aircraft the Navy owned, having taught at the Naval Academy and having been stationed all over the world.

Kessler, 93, began his service in the Navy in 1943, seeing much action aboard the highly decorated USS Boise in both the Mediterranean and the South Pacific in World War II and retiring as a Naval captain in 1969.

Flynn, 92, was born and raised in Georgetown. He enlisted in the Navy in 1939 and served out the entirety of World War II aboard the USS San Diego, the second most decorated ship in WWII, and the USS Benevolence hospital ship as a corpsman. He was Chief Pharmacist Mate at the time of his discharge at the end of the war in 1945.

 

Honor Flight

Jermstad heard about the Honor Flight program and applied for it. Honor Flight takes veterans, free of charge, on weekend trips to Washington D.C. to visit the World War II memorial and other sites, honoring their service with special welcomes and recognition.

“I bugged them and bugged them, but I didn’t hear anything,” said Jermstad.

Finally, he was notified that I had been selected for an Honor Flight, but by this time, Jermstad had decided that his friends Kessler and Flynn needed to go, too, and he let Honor Flight know he wasn’t going without them.

“It took a couple more years, but this July they had a flight organized and we all got to go,” said Jermstad.

“Ron’s son drove us to the airport — we wouldn’t have gotten there without him,” said Kessler. “We were almost too old to go.”

David Jermstad volunteered to serve as the trio’s Guardian. Honor flights are set up with each veteran or small group of veterans having a Guardian who takes care of transportation to the departure airport, boarding passes, luggage and other details so as to allow the veterans to enjoy a worry-free experience.

“They took care of us so well; it ended up that each one of us had our own guide,” said Kessler. “Two or three hundred civilians, including lots of beautiful women all lined up to greet us.”

“When we arrived in Washington, there were fire engines hosing the plane in a water salute on both sides of us,” said Jermstad. “It was first class treatment and very moving.”

“Everywhere we went, there were groups of people waiting for us,” said Flynn. “When I got out of the Navy, no one recognized me. I was just another sailor, but on Honor Flight in Washington and when we came home to San Francisco they honored us first for being in the service during time of war and second, for surviving.”

“I’d been to the memorial before, but it was different going with a group and being recognized for the service.This was something I really appreciated,” said Kessler.”It made you feel good.”

 

Old friends agree

Despite some good natured kidding, the three agree that the attack on Pearl Harbor was a set-up by President Roosevelt to jump start the U.S. entry into the war.

“It was common knowledge in the military,” said Jermstad. “We were still in negotiations with the Japanese. Roosevelt set up the scenario to happen.”

“The Germans had the British on the ropes,” said Flynn. “There were only older ships in that harbor; all the subs, cruisers and aircraft carriers had been sent out to sea.”

“It’s just hard to accept that 2,500 people died in that attack,” said Kessler.

World War II was the war that united the country, according to Jermstad, Flynn and Kessler.

“There was no quibbling over whether we should be in it after Pearl Harbor. People stood in line to enlist,” said Kessler. “Even civilians got involved.”

“It wasn’t like Vietnam when people spat on the flag and the soldiers,” said Jermstad. “The whole country rose en mass and even the conscientious objectors made contributions. We’ve never been that united again, not even after 911.”

They agree that the atomic bomb was a better way to resolve the war than trying to invade Japan. “It saved millions of American and Japanese lives,” said Flynn. “Japan would have fought forever and they were absolutely starving.”

 

Lots of action and stories to share

Flynn recalled an appendix operation aboard ship. He was administering anesthesia by dripping ether into a cone covering the patient’s nose.

“I had to watch his face so I could keep him under but not too deep. Suddenly our 20 mm gun went off. We were under attack, but I had to keep administering ether. That was a frightening time,” Flynn said.

Once, while being strafed by Japanese planes, Flynn went to the aid of a wounded man on deck.

“I was dragging him off the deck when we were hit and I was slapped up against the turret. I was still holding the guy’s collar, but he was nowhere to be found. Later, I went below deck, still looking for him and there he was claiming that some @#$ had stolen his shirt,” said Flynn.

Kessler was boat officer for General Douglas MacArthur during his return to the Pacific.

“We went to many islands together and I got to know him. Once we were in New Guinea where the Australians had invaded. As we walked we were told to stay right with the Australians, but the Japanese began firing at us from about 100 yards away. I hit the ground, but MacArthur stood  there and told them what to do to take out the Japanese. A bullet went between his arms but he wasn’t hit. They knocked out the Japanese and we went on. I had a very interesting war,” Kessler said.

 All three have been in life-threatening situations many times — Kessler and Flynn aboard their respective ships in the Philippines and at Guadalcanal to name only two, and Jermstad as a top multi-engine pilot.
Kessler witnessed the surrender of Italy and Flynn was in Japan at the time of their surrender. Jermstad flew patrol in the Panama Canal zone.

Flynn proudly wears his USS San Diego cap and a yellow Honor Flight T-shirt, the back of which reads, “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.”

Thank you, Bill, Jim and Ron.

Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or wschultz@mtdemocrat.net. Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.

Comments

comments

.

News

 
Heard over the back fence: Attorney to warn about scams

By Bob Billingsley | From Page: B1

Road zone of benefit protester reaches dead end

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Six file for Dist. 2

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1

District 2 candidates forum Aug. 14

By News Release | From Page: B1

 
EID ditch customers get relief

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A1

Veterans receive wildland fire training

By News Release | From Page: B1

 
Market data open for local biz

By Ross Branch | From Page: B1

Volunteers clean up national forest

By News Release | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
.

Opinion

My turn: Special interests at EID

By Special to the Democrat | From Page: A4

 
Russian metastasis

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

The Democratic-Chronicles: Not invented here

By Gene Altshuler | From Page: A4

 
.

Letters

Small Farm compromise

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
EID and Dale Coco

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

DA hogging Main St. parking

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
CAO and staff hiring friends

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Altshuler’s hypocrisy

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
.

Sports

Sharks defeat Loomis Basin in season finale

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Celebrity golf at Tahoe

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Roundup: July 22, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

 
Dolphins ring up another title

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Dodgeball: Not the national pastime but …

By Shane Theodore | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
.

Prospecting

At a glance: Comets to meteors

By Mimi Escabar | From Page: B2

 
Taste the best at the State Fair

By Democrat Staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Tractor Supply Store recognized

By Uc Cooperative | From Page: B3

 
Amador Fair honors cowboys

By Amador County Fair | From Page: B3

 
Arbor Day book helps to identify trees

By Arbor Day | From Page: B4

 
Learn about lavender and its many benefits

By Christian Women's Connection | From Page: B4

Lee’s Feed appreciates customers

By Democrat Staff | From Page: B5

 
My Time meeting in August

By Senior Day | From Page: B5

Builders’ Exchange honors scholars

By El Dorado Builders' Exchange | From Page: B5

 
En garde at Silver Screen Classic

By Auburn Silver Screen | From Page: B5

.

Essentials

Weather stats 7-22-14

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

 
Crime Log: July 8-10

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

.

Obituaries

Walter Vali

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
Jean Lachelle Taylor

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Arthur J. Funston

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
.

Real Estate

.

Comics

Flying McCoys

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Speed Bump

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Tundra

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Horoscope, Thursday, July 24, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Horoscope, Wednesday, July 23, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Working It Out

By Contributor | From Page: A8

TV Listings

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Shoe

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Sudoku

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Rubes

By Contributor | From Page: A8

New York Times Crossword

By Contributor | From Page: A8