CHICAGO, November 11, 2011- Veterans all over the country are being honored today. But for three World War II vets, the celebration began on Tuesday, November 8. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared it “Honor Our Heroes Day” as Russell Taylor, 94, Elizabeth Harness, 91, and Jim Farrell, 90, had their service recognized and their wishes granted by Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime foundation.
Russell Taylor served in the Signal Corps with General Patton’s Third Army. He will never forget landing at Utah Beach in Normandy on D-day. While in Paris, Taylor met a young woman who had fled her hometown more than once as the Germans came marching through. The couple married in France in 1945 and moved to the United States.
Taylor wishes to see, one more time, the places that so strongly affected his life. Normandy, where so many of his fellow soldiers fell. Paris, where he and Odile fell in love amidst the terrifying chaos.
And his wish is being granted. In a surprise gesture, it was Benjamen Patton, the General’s grandson, who informed Taylor that Wish of a Lifetime is sending him and Odile to Normandy and Paris, where the couple plans to renew their wedding vows after 66 years.
During World War II, women were not accepted in the military but that didn’t stop Elizabeth Harness. Harness signed on as a WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). She served as a second-class seaman WAVE driver for the commander of the Naval training station in San Diego. In Harness’ own words: “We replaced men in this country so they could go abroad.”
The Navy’s WAVES developed a strong sisterhood, something Harness has missed in the years since. “No matter where I’ve lived, from coast to coast, I haven’t met any. I don’t know what happened to them.” Wish of a Lifetime found some. Three of Harness’ fellow WAVES were on hand to see her awarded the three medals she earned during her service, but which had somehow been overlooked.
Jeremy Bloom, a two-time Olympic Skier and former NFL football player, established Wish of a Lifetime in living honor of his grandmother. According to their website, one of the foundation’s goals is to contribute to “an American cultural change that honors and celebrates the lives of our elders.”
“It’s just so obvious with this generation. The simplicity in which they live. They don’t ask for a lot and they just appreciate the smallest things in life,” Bloom said in an interview with ABC’s Frank Mathie.
Sending a couple to Europe or tracking down lost friends may not sound simple. But Elizabeth Harness didn’t wish for the recognition of service that was denied her when her medals were overlooked. She wished to connect with others who had shared her experiences.
And let’s not forget Jim Farrell’s wish. Farrell served under General Patton in England, France, and Berlin. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge. And Wish of a Lifetime is granting his wish, too.
One day soon, Farrell will get to meet his favorite Chicago Cub, Kerry Wood. Even a hero like Jim Farrell has a hero.
I don’t know whether Kerry Wood ever risked his life for another, but millions of men and women have and do everyday. Take a moment this Veterans’ Day to remember them.
To contact Julia Goralka, see above. Her work appears in the Communities at the Washington Times.
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