My father, Alexander W. Prusi, passed away 30 years ago this past Wednesday.
While I miss him every day, there's something happening next week that makes me ache even more that he is not still with us. Next Thursday, the Upper Peninsula Honor Flight will be taking another set of World War Ii veterans to see the monument in their honor in Washington, D.C.
These American heroes will visit the National World War II Memorial which opened to the public on April 29, 2004. The memorial pays tribute to the 16 million men and women who served in the U.S. military during World War II; honors the more than 400,000 who died; and salutes the millions who supported the war effort from home.
My dad was one of those who served. Researching the WWII memorial, I was ashamed to admit I didn't know much about my own father's time in the military. It wasn't something he and I ever discussed so I called my older sister, Chris, in New Hampshire to hear what she remembered about our beloved Papa's time in the military.
"He didn't talk about it that much," she said. "At least not with me."
But all wasn't lost: I knew my oldest brother and history buff, Alexander M. Prusi, would be able to provide some information to me so I fired off an email to him in Florida. In a matter of a few hours, share he did.
Our dad was a combat engineer during WWII who did basic training in North Carolina and then was shipped to England. He was 24 when he arrived on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, on June 13, 1944. His unit was assigned to a number of larger units, Alex said, including the British 1st Parachute Brigade, aka The Red Devils.
During the Battle of the Bulge, dad was part of the 82nd Airborne Division. Dad served as a military governor of a town in Germany for a time and earned a battlefield commission to lieutenant. In all, he came home with five battle stars.
Alex also attached a letter written to my father by a priest in Belgium. My dad's unit had provided food to the priest's village just before the Battle of the Bulge.
Wow. My dad has always been one of my heroes but even more so now. He never boasted about all he did during the fight to free the world from Hitler's tyranny.
But that's the thing about the men and women who served then. For the most part, they did not expect accolades or demand attention after their brave service to our nation... to our world. They did what they thought was right at enormous sacrifice, then the lucky ones came home to their families, to build this country into a better place for the generations that followed.
My guess is that everyone who reads this knows someone who served during World War Ii. If you're fortunate, that person is still with us. Perhaps they've been able to see this long-awaited, well-deserved monument in their honor already. Maybe they are on the Honor Flight that's heading out Thursday.
My hope is that all of us in the generations that followed help with the effort to get every World War II veteran from the U.P. to D.C. to see this special tribute. These folks are now 85-plus years old, so time is of the essence.
Contributions are being accepted toward these trips because, remarkably and wonderfully, the veterans do not pay a cent for the journey to their monument. The amazing group led by Barb Van Rooy in Gladstone takes care of all of that and you still can help as another flight is being planned for September. Visit www.upperpeninsulahonorflight.org/Home.php to learn more.
And there's one more way you can join in the tribute to these heroes: Go to the Delta County Airport at about 9 p.m. Thursday. The Honor Flight should be returning at about 9:30 that night and the plan is to have a large crowd there to cheer them home from this most wonderful journey.
These men and women put themselves in harm's way to save the world. The very least we can do is help pay tribute to them now, before they're all gone.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.