Ed Havens and Kenneth Jackson among the 100 local World War II veterans at Day of Honor
By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Wed., May. 1, 2013
When Army National Guard Officer Christopher Coutu visited the new National World War II Memorial in 2006, he noticed one thing was missing: the World War II veterans. He made it his mission to increase patriotism and to honor veterans by organizing a nonprofit, American Warrior of Norwich, Conn., which is dedicated to organizing day trips to bring aging veterans to Washington, D.C., to view the monuments that celebrate their service.
The ninth American Warrior Connecticut Day of Honor was held Saturday, April 27. One hundred World War II veterans - 98 men and two women - from 50 communities in Connecticut arrived at Bradley International Airport to depart on a chartered Airbus 320. With them were more than 100 volunteers and “guardians” – including a doctor and nurses on hand to respond to any medical need the veterans may have. The trip was free of charge to the veterans.
Kenneth Jackson of South Windsor remembers starting the day at 4:30 a.m. to make it to Bradley. Before departing, large crowds saw the group off, and crowds welcomed the veterans at Washington, D.C.
The day began with a visit to the World War II Memorial. From there, the group had lunch in the bus, and continued to the Navy Memorial, followed by the Korean Memorial (which Jackson said was “beautiful”). They visited the iconic Iwo Jima statue at the Marine Corp. Memorial, and concluded the day with the Air Force Memorial. Upon their return to Bradley, family and friends were waiting to give the veterans a hero's welcome.
“They treated us like real heroes,” said Jackson. “We're just regular people,” he added with a chuckle. “Just the way people treated us was fantastic. Every place we went, people would stand up and cheer. It really made you feel important. It was a great time.”
Jackson was in the Navy during the war, and was stationed stateside. “I ended up running a meat warehouse down at the sub base in New London for my last two years,” he said. His discharge was in 1948. “I was one of the lucky ones. For every person that is in active duty, there are two on the sidelines,” Jackson said.
He remembers that he and three other young men from Manchester High School, where he went to school, went in at the same time. The others went out to sea while Jackson was stationed in New London.
Jackson attended the event with his friend and neighbor, former mayor and town councilor, Edward Havens.
“As the years went by, I guess almost 70 years now, I've gotten a lot of ‘thank you’s,” Havens said. “But never so many ‘thank you’s from such a large group.”
“There were so many ‘thank you’s, I really didn't think I deserved them, but I accepted them,” he said. “It was a great trip.”
Havens joined the Navy when he was 18, and served in a Naval Unit called the Armed Guard. As a gunner, he served aboard merchant marine ships that carried freight across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. “At times it was quite adventurous and exciting, particularly when we got to the Mediterranean area,” he said.
He hopes that the events that he and his generation lived through are remembered by generations to come. “Many younger people don't know much about World War II, and I think they should be brought up to date,” Havens said. His main concern is that he hopes the men and women who were killed during the war not be forgotten. “They were mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers. Just a name to a lot of people, but to their families they were much more.”