Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Aging Veterans Flown To See Their Memorial

Published May 22, 2008

Lt. Col. Gerald “Bud” Might flew missions out of England with the Army Air Corps in B-17s, a B-26 and a C-54, taking to the air just months after his younger brother, Robert, was killed in a plane crash near Cologne, Germany.

Shot at countless times over more than 75 missions, Might hung up his wings in 1970 after flying in combat in three wars—World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Today he’s active in St. George Village with his wife of 65 years, helping direct traffic at nearby Queen of Angels School, during what some may consider equally perilous carpool pickup.

Might and four other retirement community residents who served in World War II were honored recently with a trip to the recently opened memorial in Washington, D.C.

Army Capt. Bill Francis graduated from Georgia Tech and enlisted 12 days later, going from the classroom to learning to operate a Howitzer and tank tactical maneuvers with the 97th Infantry. He led his platoon through the countryside in Belgium near the Rhine River and into Czechoslovakia after the Battle of the Bulge; his unit saw some 1,900 casualties.

His then future wife, Ouida, who had heard about the Women’s Air Corps, or WAC, while in college at Florida State University, joined that corps and worked stateside in Utah for 43 months until 1946 as a first lieutenant. Like many during the war, the couple met on the dance floor and married at Atlanta’s Fort McPherson on Francis’ 30-day leave before he was shipped to Europe.

New York native Rosanna McLaughlin Bassett followed in the footsteps of her father, brother and uncles’ Navy service, enlisting as a WAVE—otherwise known as “Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service”—and spending time in England as a supply officer. Leaving the service with the rank of “SK 2C,” she retired to Atlanta with her husband, also a Navy man, after teaching first through ninth grade as a certified master teacher in New York.

Sgt. Farley Day of Baton Rouge, La., hit the South Pacific as an Army infantryman in 1941, serving three years and eventually earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He retired to teaching and coaching high school sports for more than 40 years and still carries shrapnel in his knee from his war injuries, said his wife, Mary Ellen “Noonie” Day. Like their fellow veterans who migrated to the area to be near family, the Days came to Roswell to be close to their daughter and grandchildren in nearby John’s Creek.

All five veterans were honored recently as part of a group of 98 World War II veterans who went on a round trip flight and visit to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. The trip was organized and paid for by the Roswell Rotary Club as part of the Honor Air Program, which seeks to give World War II veterans an opportunity to see the national memorial, completed in 2004.

The veterans spoke glowingly about how well organized and meaningful their trip was.

“The Rotary went the extra mile,” said Bassett, a St. Peter Chanel parishioner, and co-founder with her late husband, Ramon, also a Navy man, of the Roswell American Legion Post.

“I’m so glad we went, even though I had to be up at 4 a.m. and then return after 10 p.m. It was a long day … but it was a day that will never be forgotten.”

Might, also a St. Peter Chanel parishioner, echoed her sentiments.

“When we left for the Atlanta airport, we had a double ladder ‘salute’ from the Roswell Fire Department and a (Roswell) police escort all the way down to the airport,” he said. “They had a security check in for us downstairs, and we went straight through and then boarded the plane.”

Arriving at Reagan International Airport in Washington, the group was “dumbfounded” at the number of people who greeted them so early in the morning, Might said. Particularly moving was the rousing welcome from a group of soldiers serving in Iraq who were returning on R and R to the states.

Said Bassett, who wrote her sentiments down, “I was touched as many of those same young men and women came up to me to thank me for my service to our country. It was a feeling of complete humility for all of us as we thanked them and asked God to bless each one.”

A police motorcycle escort—the same group of officers who escorted the pope during his visit to Washington—led the three busloads of veterans and their “guardians” to the memorial.

“It was like a parade,” said trip organizer Mike Nielsen of the Roswell Rotary.

During the day the group was treated to a festive boxed lunch at the World War II Memorial. There they were visited by retired Sen. Bob Dole and Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss and Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, before boarding the buses again to visit the Korean and Vietnam War memorials and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They returned to Atlanta the same day, exhausted but exhilarated from the trip, Nielsen said.

Currently, there are more than 50 St. George Village residents who are veterans, serving in each major branch of the service and theater of operations of the war, said Lisa Timm, St. George Village marketing director. This includes five women who served as WACs, WAVEs and Marines.

“Theaters of operation of our residents included Europe, the Aleutians, the South and Western Pacific,” she said.

The intrepid group of five veterans hopes their experience will inspire other St. George WWII vets to make the journey to the memorial, if another trip is planned, they said.