'It will take me back 70 years': WWII vets finally able to visit their memorial

News-DemocratJune 24, 2013 

Ardell Miller, 83, of Belleville, owns Bell City Battery in Belleville. During World War II he was a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 709th Engineers Petroleum Distribution Co. He laid a fuel pipeline through the jungles of Burma to supply bombers in China.

BRAD WEISENSTEIN

A 92-year-old World War II veteran never thought he would be able to visit the national tribute to the war he fought in, the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., but Tuesday, he will finally get that chance.

"I've seen different pictures of it on television but I don't think you can really appreciate it until you're there standing in front of it," said veteran Glenn Holtz of Belleville. "It will take me back 70 years. Can you imagine?"

Holtz said being taken back in time in this way is going to make for an emotional experience.

"I lost a lot of really good friends in the war," he said.

Holtz, along with another Belleville resident and WWII veteran Ardell Miller, 88, are traveling through an eight-year-old program known as Honor Flight, which flies as many veterans as possible to Washington to visit their memorial.

All expenses for the trip are covered because Honor Flight was conceived for the purpose of thanking the veterans who have already sacrificed so much through their service.

Holtz said he has known veterans who have been able to participate in the Honor Flight program and he always admired them for it.

"I never thought I'd have that good luck," he said.

Holtz said his being able to travel to visit the memorial happened by accident.

"I was getting my driver's license and I was waiting my turn. There was a fellow there, asked me if I was a veteran. I said, 'Yeah.' He asked if I'd ever been on the Honor Flight. I said, 'No.' He asked if I'd like to go," Holtz said. "...I'm really thrilled."

Holtz said while serving overseas for two and a half years in the Pacific, he earned a Silver Star and three Battle Stars, among other achievements.

"It's very honorable to be able to go on the flight. ...I really appreciate the fact that I get to go," Holtz said.

Miller's daughter, Ginger, said she is glad her father is finally going to be able to see the memorial.

"I've tried for over two years to get him on this flight," she said.

The wait can be long for veterans because flights fill up on a first-come, first-serve basis, with veterans having terminal illnesses at the top of an often lengthy waiting list.

Ginger Miller said she knows how much this trip will mean to her father.

"He is so proud of his service," she said.

Ardell Miller served during WWII in Burma from the time he graduated Belleville Township High School until the end of the war.

"Five or six young men in his class lied about their age," Ginger Miller said. "He went in before he was 18."

Ardell Miller said he is excited for the special day-long trip, even if it does require an early start.

"It's going to be quite interesting as far as I'm concerned," Ardell Miller said. "The only thing is it's 4 o'clock in the morning, but you just do it if you want to do it. ... I'm looking forward to it very much."

Holtz, Miller and 23 other veterans will depart on Tuesday morning and return the same day, having visited not only the WWII Memorial, but also the Navy Memorial, Korean, Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials, Women's Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Marine Memorial and Air Force Memorial.

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