Remembering our fallen
The community of Red Oak paid tribute to fallen veterans at its Memorial Day ceremony May 29 at Evergreen Cemetery.
Bill Williams co-founder of Patriotic Productions, spoke before the crowd. Williams co-founded the organization with his wife, Evonne, in 2011.
Court of Honor Chairman Larry Barnett during his introduction, praised Williams’ efforts.
“Speaking as a veteran, this couple has truly become heroes in the hearts and minds of so many Americans and veterans. They’ve also become heroes to many Gold Star families,” Barnett said.
Patriotic Productions helped coordinate 13 honor flights for more than 3,500 veterans from Nebraska, as well as some from Iowa, to Washington, D.C. One Vietnam Honor Flight included Red Oak veterans Barnett and Stan Pfeiffer. When organizing the first flight, Williams, a Red Oak native, said he didn’t feel it fair to exclude Iowa veterans from the Nebraska Honor Flight.
“We drew a line from Council Bluffs to Atlantic, and down to Hamburg, and invited two dozen Iowa World War II vets to go on that flight, including Dr. Ron Mills, Homer Focht, and Alvin Hayes. Alvin was one of the original frog men, who are the predecessors of the Navy SEALs,” Williams said.
After the first flight, there were calls from all over Iowa, including from the Quad Cities. Williams said Jeff and Bill Ballenger of Council Bluffs stepped up and were honored to do Honor Flights for Iowa veterans.
“I went with them on their first flight in September 2008, and they were off and running. They did flights out of the Des Moines Airport. Hy-Vee and Casey’s got in big as sponsors, and they ended up taking more than 3,000 veterans,” commented Williams.
Of all the flights he’s coordinated, Williams said the two flights for Vietnam veterans were the most therapeutic. The 2016 flight transported 510 all-combat veterans and returned to 5,000 people waiting at the airport. In 2017, the second flight transported 653 Vietnam veterans, and there were 7,000 people waiting for their return at the airport in Lincoln, Neb.
“I’ll give you one example of the effect. A few months after the first flight, a veteran came to our house and said he’d had nightmares for 45 years, sleeping two or three hours a night. Ever since they got back, and after seeing all the people at the airport, with the flags flying, the band playing, and the signs and his family there to greet him, he slept eight hours a night, woke up refreshed and was a new man. Isn’t that remarkable? It’s because so many folks came out late at night to stand and greet them and hold a flag,” stated Williams.
Williams closed out his comments by saying this Memorial Day allowed everyone to honor the loved and lost from all wars.
“It’s a day of remembrance, isn’t it? Most of us here have a loved one or friend laid to rest in this beautiful cemetery. We honor and remember them this day,” Williams said.