When Jim Buse goes to Washington, D.C., later this month, he plans to see as much as possible, particularly the Korean War Veterans Memorial honoring the more than 250,000 U.S. troops who served in that conflict.
With some luck – or perhaps the grace of God – Buse was not one of them.
Rather than going to Korea in 1954 when he enlisted, Buse was stationed in the Bordeau region of France.
I did well on my tests, he said, and I wanted to go to Germany. But they sent me to France. He was part of an engineering unit that helped build the portable docking systems vital to efficiently unloading tons of materials needed in that war-torn country.
I was lucky, Buse said. The French, who had foreign troops on their soil for more than 15 years, weren’t always friendly, he said. But France was better than Korea, the 79-year-old Auburn resident chuckled.
Buse is among the 70 veterans expected to fly to the nation’s capital April 30 as part of the 12th Honor Flight from the Summit City. The flight is scheduled to depart from the Air National Guard Base and return to Fort Wayne International Airport that same day. The 13th Honor Flight will be May 28, and another is scheduled in October.
We already have 20 veterans signed up for October, said Bob Myer, president of Honor Flight Northeast Indiana, which sponsors the trips. Myer is a fighter pilot with more than 30 years in the Air Force and Air National Guard. Since the first Honor Flight from Fort Wayne in May 2009, veterans from World War II and those from other conflicts who have serious illnesses are given priority.
An estimated 1,150 World War II veterans die every day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Some of our WWII vets say they didn’t see combat and don’t deserve to go, Myer said. But even if they didn’t see combat, those veterans served their country and deserve to be honored and respected, he said.
We’re close to exhausting our applicants from WWII, Myer said. But we get new applications all the time. We’re beginning to consider vets from Korea and Vietnam.
One of those scheduled for an Honor Flight later this year is Bonnie Habegger, 91, of Berne. She was a first lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps. Her daughter, Cynthia House, a home health nurse, will accompany her.
We generally have four or five women on each flight, Myer said. We make it a point to stop at the Memorial for the Women in Military Service for America in Arlington National Cemetery.
The flights, which cost $800 per veteran, are financed largely with donations. Veterans fly for free, although individuals required to accompany them are asked to pay $400 each.
We get donations from individuals as well as corporations, Myer said. Service clubs, veterans’ organizations and schools often hold fundraisers, he said. Raising money is seldom easy, he continued, but it’s not as hard as it used to be.
Jim Buse returned from France a more mature person. He was one of 10 students in his graduating class at Plainville High School, where he was admittedly a so-so student. I had a C average, he said, and I wasn’t much in basketball.
But his military experience prompted Buse to get serious about the future. He enrolled at Purdue on the G.I. Bill and studied engineering while remaining in the reserves. He retired with the rank of warrant officer in 1978. Buse left Purdue and began working in Fort Wayne as a consulting engineer. In that line of work it’s common to have several different jobs, he said.
I worked at Magnavox, North American Van Lines and other places before retiring in 2002. He graduated from IPFW with a degree in business management. Buse was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1981. The disease caused him to lose 30 pounds.
I didn’t let it get me down, he said. It’s in remission now, and I’ve decided to deal with it and get on with my life.
Buse heard about Honor Flights by accident last summer. He was a driver for the DeKalb Area Rural Transit when he noticed a lapel pin on one of his riders. He (the rider) said it was an Honor Flight pin. So I started asking questions and learned about the program, Buse said.
One of those enthused about Buse’s Honor Flight is his wife, Christal.
I wish I could go with him, she said, but I can’t. I’m just glad he got this opportunity.
Buse’s son Loren, a graduate of Garrett High School, will accompany his dad.