DEARBORN - They have been called the Greatest Generation and the stories they tell of heroism, patriotism and friendship are relevant today as they were some 70 years ago. These are the soldiers, sailors and airmen of World War II. With each passing day, fewer of them are left to tell their stories.
To mark the 68th anniversary of D-Day – the landing of more than 150,000 Allied troops on Nazi-fortified beaches in Normandy – Ford Motor Company Fund and the Honor Flight Network sponsored Pride and Honor Flights for about 75 World War II veterans from Michigan and Kentucky to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“The sacrifice and bravery of these soldiers serve as a lesson for all of us,” said Mike Bannister, Ford Motor Credit Company chairman and CEO and champion of the Ford Veterans Network Group. “It is particularly fitting to acknowledge their service on the anniversary of D-Day, a crucial point in the war that took such a high toll on our troops.”
Bannister and other Ford employees greeted the veterans at a rousing early morning airport sendoff. Frank Kurtycz, 88, of Canton, Mich., talked with Bannister about his service and his 52-year career at Ford, which included helping to build the Ford Motor Credit headquarters. Bannister assured Frank that building is still standing.
"I was lucky to have worked at Ford. Ford was a good employer," said Kurtycz, who once met Henry Ford. "I am very appreciative of Ford's efforts to help veterans visit the national memorial."
The veterans, all in their late 80s and 90s, and their guardians received a festive welcome on their arrival at the Memorial in Washington, D.C. The veterans were greeted by members of Congress and Ford employees, and received letters of appreciation from Ford employees, family members and others.
"I was proud to work for Ford for 21 years, and proud to serve my country," said Norbert Murphy, 90, of Northville, Mich., who was awarded a Bronze Star for heroism. "Thank you to Ford for this great opportunity."
“As a veteran myself, I am honored to join these outstanding Americans who bravely served our country in World War II on their visit to the national World War II Memorial," said John Savona, plant manager, Ford Louisville Assembly Plant, who took the trip as a guardian. "This historic anniversary is a fitting reminder of the challenges they overcame and the sacrifices they made on behalf of future generations."
Ford Fund also announced a $200,000 grant to the Disabled American Veterans Transportation Network for the purchase of eight vehicles, bringing to 164 the total number of Ford vehicles in the DAV fleet for transporting disabled veterans. This is in addition to $50,000 in grants for DAV’s Winter Sports Clinic and the Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship Program. The No. 21 Ford Fusion driven by Trevor Bayne at a NASCAR Memorial Day weekend race sported the DAV logo in honor of Ford’s longstanding partnership with DAV, which includes more than $6.5 million in donations since 1996.
“Ford is one of our nation’s great institutions, and for 90 years they’ve honored the brave heroes who have sacrificed for our nation,” said DAV National Adjutant Arthur H. Wilson. “There is something uniquely American about the commitment and loyalty they’ve shown our cause and we’re grateful for our partnership which has made a difference for generations of veterans and their families.”
"This is fantastic," added Frank Serridge, 90, of Milford, Mich. "This is my first trip to Washington, D.C. I am very grateful to Ford. Thanks for everything you do for veterans."
Maxwell Nadis of Commerce Township, Mich., left; Frank Serridge (90) of Milford, Mich., center; and Sam Mackey (94) of Clarkston, Mich., right, prepare to board a Ford Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. and the World War II Memorial.