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Roasted once more for my 'brothers in arms' | Ferry Home Companion

Journal Columnist Howard Schoenberger
Journal Columnist Howard Schoenberger's 'Ferry Home Companion' appears regularly on SanJuanJournal.com and in the Journal of the San Juan Islands
— image credit: File photo

Wednesday was my 90th birthday. 

And it was 10 years ago that day I agreed to join then-editor Richard Walker and a couple of friends to lift a mug to celebrate.

It was a complete surprise to arrive at the Legion Hall and find they had planned an impromptu party and roast for me just because I'd lived so long. 

This year, because I was designated to join the honor flight with 11 other Washingtonian World War II veterans on VJ Day 2010, my wife, Helen Sawyer, and I decided it would be appropriate to host a party in gratitude for that wonderful trip.

A Pot Luck, but a huge cake for dessert. Pauli Gavora and Minnie Knych, officers of the American Legion Auxiliary, set the date for this coming Saturday, March 12, at 5:30 p.m. Helen has hired the 14-piece One More Time Band, with torch songs by Jill Urbach.

There's a triple roasting of yours truly in store, by tongue-lashers Brian Brown, Jack Cory and Scott Rasmussen. Richard Walker did it single-handedly a decade ago and I survived. I was perked up particularly by belly and hula dancers, and Marilyn Monroe imitations singing "Happy Birthday" seductively (I was a widower then).

There's no admission for Saturday's roast and fundraiser, but donations are gratefully accepted. Who knows what this year will bring, even if the only time available was three days after my birthday.

Remember, I hardly deserved to be so honored.

I was more "Guard-a-Canal" (Panama), not Guadalcanal, and didn't go to Infantry O.C.S until a couple years after Pearl Harbor. The Honor Flight is open to all World War II vets and we still have a few of us on San Juan Island, like Roy Matsumoto of Merrill's Marauders, Fred Hoeppner, at Pearl Harbor, and Noble Starr, a Silver Star awarded vet of Infantry in ETO, who also received the Purple Heart. 

Even with donated flights by Southwest Airlines, however, the cost for veterans coming from the West Coast runs several hundred dollars apiece. Volunteer medical personnel pay their own way.

The whole idea is to let as many vets as possible see the World War II monument, which finally opened in recent years. They'll be given a tour of every conceivable monument in D.C., met by reception committees at airports -- coming and going -- and put up with a buddy in an elegant hotel in Baltimore during this whirlwind trip. At the memorial, they will be serenaded by the Marine Band in the shadow of the Memorial of Arches, which represents every state and territory from which our 14 million wartime vets sprung into action.

The veterans will be greeted at the ceremony by former Vice President Bob Dole* or his bride, former Sen. Elizabeth Liddy.

Every week over 1,000 WW II vets die. Here's hoping as many as possible can first make this rewarding trip. It's wonderful to know that this small island has one of the largest American Legion posts in the Northwest.

The music won't get started until about 7 p.m. and we’ll hear all those World War II songs that we loved so much.

So come on down guys and gals, young and old... and remember to...Go with the F.L.O.W. (Ferry Lovers Of Washington)

*(Bob Dole was Howard's classmate at Fort Benning, Ga., when they were commissioned as infantry officers at Infantry Officer Candidate's School)

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