Jackson County Times

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

“Willie Earl Goes to Washington”

As part of an ongoing program designed to honor the service of the living veterans who served in WW II, periodically a national program titled the “Honor Flight Network” coordinates sending planeloads of WWII veterans to Washington for special service recognition. Last Saturday, local businessman and civic leader, Willie Earl Paramore flew to Washington D.C. as part of this worthwhile program, in a “Wiregrass Honor Flight” of area WWII veterans.

A few days prior to his departure, Paramore stopped by the Jackson County Times offices to discuss the upcoming trip. He was excited about going, and was wearing a special Tee shirt and cap he had assembled for his trip to the capital. He proudly pointed to a service medal embroidered onto his cap, and with his usual dry humor he quipped, “This is for my Purple Heart which I earned in Germany when I cut my finger while opening a beer can.”

Saturday, September 26 was a whirlwind day for Willie Earl. After spending the night in Dothan, he was at the Dothan airport for a 7:30 departure of the charter flight. There were 272 aging, proud veterans from our area in the group. A special departure ceremony, complete with bands, military officials, honor guards, and many civilian supporters, was conducted as the group prepared to load the aircraft.

A couple of hours later, the plane landed in Baltimore, Maryland. As they disembarked from the aircraft another large group was waiting to greet these heroes. Water canons sprayed into the sky in their honor, several bands were playing, a huge crowd of military officials, honor guards, and almost everyone who was in the Baltimore airport greeted and applauded them as they made their way to waiting buses. “It couldn’t help but make you feel good to see people honoring you that way,” Paramore said humbly.

Then they arrived in Washington to participate in a special ceremony at the World War II memorial. There they were joined with other arriving honorees from four other “Honor Flights” from other areas of the nation. A lunch was served, and another greeting ceremony was conducted by military officials, politicians, and others. They were presented a special honors wreath with the notation “For the Courage and Valor of the Greatest Generation”.

Next, the vets were transported to Arlington Cemetery where another ceremony waited. Here, top ranking military officials presented each veteran with a special lapel medal, and a certificate recognizing their contributions to our nation. The certificate was signed by General Casey the Chief of Staff, and Pete Green, the Secretary of the Army.

Then the trip back to Dothan began. When the plane landed in Dothan, they were surprised to see another huge crowd of over 1000 waiting to greet them. A large military honor group from Fort Rucker as well as many civilians gave the returning patriots a meaningful return tribute. The event was filmed by WTVY, Dothan television, and was aired several times.

When asked how all of this special attention made him feel, in his usual humble manner Willie Earl said, “It made me feel very honored and proud, but heck, I wasn’t a hero, the war ended just as they were ready to send me to the Pacific for the invasion of Japan. Instead, I went to Germany and helped with the post war occupation work, but I wasn’t in combat. I’m not a hero”.

I assured Willie Earl that he WAS a hero. He was ready to serve his nation and to sacrifice his life if necessary at that time. That aspect of his service certainly qualifies him as a hero. Those of us who are from generations to follow feel deep gratitude and respect for those among us who are from “The Greatest Generation”.

Editor’s Note: In a coming issue we will present another story about Willie Earl Paramore, and his time in post war Germany and Austria….especially when he was at Hitler’s “Eagles Nest”.

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