“We wanted to make his homecoming back to Alden one to remember,” says Elaine, his wife. “All of us at Alden had such a good time making goodies and posters for him.”
Les visited the Korean Memorial and other sites of interest during his one-day trip, which was made possible by Honor Flight Chicago, a local nonprofit organization whose mission is to honor and thank local veterans for their years of service. Les served as a PFC in the Army for two years and served in combat in Korea for six months. He received the Korean Service Medal with two bronze stars and the United Nations service medal. Fifty years after leaving the service, he also received a letter of appreciation from South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung, which includes a Korean War Service medal and ribbon.
“On the morning of the flight, I got up at 2:45 a.m. and arrived at Midway Airport at 4,” says Les. “On the flight, we all received notes and letters during ‘mail call.’ I received letters from The Ladies of the Lakes at Alden of Waterford and from family and friends.”
“I think the highlight of the day was the return to Midway Airport,” says Les. “Firetrucks sprayed water on the plane as we taxied to the gate, the bands were playing and it seemed like thousands of people were there to greet us. There was cheering and clapping and people wanting to shake our hands. Even the Governor of Illinois was there to greet us. I finally got home around midnight.”
Les contrasts this homecoming with the one in February 1953, when he returned from Korea. “I was met at the Santa Fe Railroad Station in Hutchinson, Kansas by my father at about 1 a.m. in the morning. I was the only person getting off the train and my father was the only person at the station. No band and it was cold!”
Among those welcoming Les back from his Honor Flight was his wife Elaine, pictured above. “It was a wonderful experience and I’m grateful to Honor Flight and my friends The Lakes of Waterford for making me feel so special,” says Les.