By Micah Wilkins
June 18, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – This past weekend, veterans were given a chance to relive history.
Veterans were invited to ride in a historic B-25 Mitchell Aircraft during the Salute to the Veterans celebration on Flag Day, Saturday, June 14, at the National Airline History Museum at the downtown airport.
The event featured Mary Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower, as the main speaker and drew about 100 veterans. Lt. Ray Hawks and Emma Newland, who helped build B-25s at the North American Aviation plant in Kansas City, Kan., during the 1940s, were personally recognized, and invited to fly in a B-25 along with dozens of other veterans who signed up to take an aerial tour of downtown Kansas City. The B-25s were a major aircraft used throughout World War II, the majority of which were built in Kansas City.
Newland, who celebrated her 90th birthday on Monday, June 16, lived on a nearby farm with no electricity, taking the train to work at the plant, where she was paid $1 an hour. Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, another featured speaker at the event, compared Newland to the iconic Rosie the Riveter – a cultural icon who represented the American women who worked in factories during World War II. Saturday was Newland’s first flight in a B-25.
After being greeted to the podium with a standing ovation, Eisenhower, who lives in Independence, said for those who have fought for our country, somehow the word thank you simply isn’t enough. As CEO of the organization People to People International, Eisenhower has visited over 70 countries throughout her life but still, she said, “America is the greatest on the planet and you made that happen.”
“Go aboard this aircraft because she’s been waiting for you to come home,” Eisenhower said to the veterans.
Carl Greeno, a veteran attending the event, was touched by Eisenhower’s words. After growing up in the Northeast and attending Northeast High School, Greeno shipped off to Vietnam. Donning a purple hat with the words “Wounded Veteran” he talked about his experiences at war. He remembers watching fellow soldiers die around him, saving more than 40 marines, he still struggles with memories from his past, 40 years later. With the help of therapy he’s received from the VA hospital, he said he is able to talk about his time in Vietnam, but still, not without choking up.
During his speech, Sanders said we cannot go on without recognizing the plight of veterans today, noting that one in four homeless people are veterans.
Eisenhower said war has many lasting effects, referencing her grandfather’s famous quote, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”