Honoring a WWII Hero One Trip at a Time

Nine months ago, as he was driving home after coming off duty at Londonderry Fire,  Bo Butler was listening to his radio.  What he heard was Joe Byron talk about a program he had founded called “Honor Flight New England”.   Butler pulled over and wrote down the contact information and gave Bryon a call.

When he picked up the phone, Butler asked Byron what he could do to help.  He informed Butler that he could go to the website and fill out an application to be a Guardian on a future trip but there was a large waiting list to be Guardians.  When he got home, he filled out the application and received an email that Bryon was in receipt of Butler’s application.  Nine months later, a package arrived in the mail accepting Butler as a Guardian.  “I was so incredibly happy to receive the news,” Butler stated.

Butler’s family has a strong a strong tradition of supporting this country during a time of war.  His grandfather was a member of the very First Construction Battalion known as the SeaBees during WWII.  His unit island-hopped all throughout the Pacific Theater, fighting off the Japanese while building runways on the islands they landed on.  He was on Iwo Jima and saw with his own eyes the flag that the Marines raised atop Mt. Suribachi.

After returning home from his service in Iraq, Bo said he wanted more than anything to “bring Papa down to DC and be with him when we laid his eyes on the WWII Memorial honoring the sacrifices made by so few, for so many.” Butler said, “Unfortunately, we never got to make that trip.  He died last July at the age of 89, six months shy of his 90th birthday.  His passing hit me hard.  The man was my living hero and a member of the Greatest Generation ever known to man.”

Bo Butler Londonderry Firefighter and Honor Flight Guardian

Butler added, “He (his Papa) lived the American Dream that he and his comrades fought so hard to get.  When I heard of this program, I knew I was meant to be part of it.  I want to spend as much time as humanly possible around these men because one day soon, they will be gone.  They are all heroes.  Most of them have remained silent for all these years about their experiences.  Silence is and always has been their coping mechanism.  It’s been said that Honor Flight brings them closure.  They suddenly will talk about their experiences which many times, their families never even knew about.  After the trip is over the veterans will say that ‘Honor Flight was the best day of their lives’.  I’m doing this to honor my grandfather’s memory and legacy.  I’m doing this for the men who did everything for this nation and asked for nothing in return.  I’m doing this because I wish I could do more for these men.  I’m doing this so that when my WWII hero asks me…’Son, do you understand?’   I can say ‘Yes, I do.’  Because I do.”

Last Saturday, along with his Dad, Butler drove to the Bedford, MA V.A. for orientation and a chance to meet Bryon in person.  Byron is a retired police officer dedicated to the mission of getting as many WWII Heroes as possible down to Washington, DC so they can see their memorial before they pass.  The biggest enemy is time.  WWII Heroes are dying at a rate of 1,000 a day. The WWII Memorial was not built until 60 years after the end of the war.  The youngest veterans alive from the conflict are in their 80’s.

“The orientation was so emotional people were crying, I was crying, my Dad was crying.  Can you imagine a world without the members of the Greatest Generation not in it? I certainly cannot,” said Butler. Only a few WWII heroes were able to make it and meet their Guardians.  Unfortunately, Butler did not get to meet his veteran that day.  He did however receive his name; Robert Greenleaf and he is 90 years old.  Butler added, “I am so honored to be his Guardian and can’t wait to shake his hand, give him a hug and kiss, and tell him thank you.  I will get to do this and more on Sunday.”

Butler has raised money from friends, family and his brothers at the fire house to make this day happen for Robert Greenleaf veteran.  “Without their generous donations, this doesn’t happen!”

Butler and Greenleaf will leave early this Sunday morning from Logan Airport.  Butler’s job is to assist Greenleaf with whatever he may need during the day.  At their send off, the WWII Heroes will get paraded thru the airport, accompanied by a Pipes and Drums Band, the Mass State Police, uniformed military personnel, and the Veterans Motorcycle Group.  They will return later in the day to a Hero’s welcome.

Butler shared one last story.  “Two weeks ago, we (LFD) responded for an 85 year old man who had fallen.  When we arrived on scene to treat the patient, we found out that he was really 95.  I asked if he was a WWII vet and he proudly said yes.  At which point, his daughter, whom he now lives with, said he was at Guadal Canal.  Wouldn’t you know it, we were helping a hero.  Another member from the Greatest Generation right here in Londonderry!”

“I asked his daughter if she or he has ever heard of Honor Flight and she said yes.  I then told her that sometime during the following week, I would come over her house and bring with me an application for her Dad to fill out.  A few days passed and as promised, I returned to the address with an Honor Flight application in my hand.  I asked if her Dad was home from the hospital and she said yes.  I sat down and explained to the WWII hero Honor Flight, the process and just about the trip itself.  I saw an old man light right up.  I explained to his daughter that he would need to fill out the application I brought and once done, to call me and I would come pick it up or do whatever would work for them.  I have since submitted his application into HFNE and he is now on a waiting list for a future trip. God willing, he lives long enough to make it.”

“It has now become my mission to get the word out about Honor Flight.  I keep a few Veteran Applications with me in the fire engine and ambulance in case I cross paths with another WWII hero while doing my job. “

If you would like more information on Honor Flight New England or to become a Guardian please check out their website.

Please be advised the website opens up with sound when you click the link.

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6 Responses

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  1. +7 Vote -1 Vote +1Jim butler

    Bo,
    I just read the article about your participation in the up coming Honor Flight. I know that your grandfather is proud of you, and will be with you in spirit.
    You know that your mother and father love you and are very proud of you and your accomplishments.
    Enjoy your trip, the experience you will encounter will be with you for ever.
    To support your commitment. I will be at the airport when you leave and come back. I will thank those veterans and you for defending the freedoms we as Americans enjoy today.
    Love Dad

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Patten

      Jim, Do you have the time, flight, and gate info? I think more than a few of us might be interested in a trip to Boston.

      Thanks to the Butler family for sharing this.

  2. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Kathy Wagner

    Here is one of the first photos we have received on Bo Butler’s trip with “Honor Flight of New England”.
    Bo Butler and Mr. Fishtine

  3. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1George Herrmann

    They are the greatest generation. As we lose more of them each day it is important for us to remember their sacrifices.
    Thanks to them all.

  4. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Lisa Graham

    God Bless you Bo xoxox

  5. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Michele Leonard

    My husband and I were flying into Manchester from Baltimore last year and it just so happened that on board were approximately a dozen or more WWII Veterans accompanied by Honor Flight, returning from their day in Washington, DC viewing their memorials. The pilot on the plane made an announcement that these brave men were on board, and what a delight and honor it was for us to be a part of that particular flight and be able to join in on their conversations and stories. Truly amazing. Upon arrival in Manchester, which was almost at midnight, the airport was filled with people awaiting the men’s arrival, cheering, saluting, waving American flags, signs and a band in full swing. There weren’t any dry eyes in the airport that night for sure. An awesome heroes reception. “Thank you” to all our Veterans and to those serving in today’s military for your service and sacrifices. I hope word continues to get out about Honor Flight so that ALL our Veterans can take part.

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