Marie and Mike Lynch were two of the World War II veterans who received a hero’s welcome Oct. 2 when they returned to Chicago on the Honor Flight from Washington, D.C.
Their daughter, Maureen Wott of Burr Ridge, and her husband were at Midway Airport to welcome them home along with the rest of the Lynch family. Wott said her parents are enjoying the celebrity treatment and television interviews.
“Every time I call their phone is busy,” Wott said.
Wott had been concerned the government shutdown might limit what monuments the veterans would be able to visit.
“But knowing the veterans and their resilience, I knew they would find a way,” Wott said.
Marie enlisted in the U.S. Navy Women Accepted for Volunteer Military Service when she was 20, after her brother, who was a Marine, was injured.
“I thought I should do my part to help,” Marie, 89, said. She was stationed in San Francisco where she worked as a secretary.
“I was up on the top floor of the barracks and I could see all the ships returning past the Golden Gate Bridge.”
After serving two and a half years, “I was glad to go home and see who was left of my friends,” Marie said.
Although they had not met yet, her future husband was serving in the Air Force in the South Pacific. He loaded bombs and machine guns onto ships. In late 1944, he was in the Philippines where the Battle of Leyte Gulf was fought.
Mike Lynch said he saw a Japanese suicide bomber destroy a U.S. ship. The ship disappeared and nuts and bolts rained down on the deck of his ship.
But Mike does not stay serious for long.
“When my granddaughter asks me what I did in the war, I tell her I prolonged it,” he said.
The couple, who lives in Hometown, had been to Washington D.C . before, maybe 25 years ago, but they did not tour the sights like they did with the Honor Flight.
“Washington is just beautiful,” Marie Lynch said.
The visited the National World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.
“Those monuments were out of this world,” Marie said.
Marie praised Republican U.S. Sen. (Mark) Kirk, who met the veterans at the World War II Memorial.
“He is the one who made sure most of (the sights) were open for the Honor Flight,” Marie said. “I told him I agree with him most of the time.”
Kirk was in a wheelchair like many of the veterans on the tour.
The organizers of the Honor Flight provided wheelchairs for all the veterans if they wanted one.
“They had two or three real strong guys who helped with the wheelchairs, like getting them into airplane,” Mike, 93, said.
“There was a lot of walking to do,” Marie said. “But none of us seemed to get tired.”
Aging veterans who fear the one-day trip might be too taxing should know there are plenty of servicemen and volunteers taking care of them.
“There was plenty of help,” Marie said. “Or you could just stay on the bus. You see a lot from the bus.”
“What is impressive is all the people who gave their time and how caring they were,” Mike said.
The welcoming ceremony included the fire department spraying its hoses and sounding sirens, bagpipers, a band, and hundreds of well-wishers lining the veterans’ path through the airport.
“Everybody was applauding and shaking our hands,” Mike said. “I felt like I was running for office.”
The tribute did not end at the airport. When the Lynches arrived at their home, friends and neighbors were standing outside with flags and signs to greet them.
“It was like a dream,” Mike said. “I am very thankful.”