DANVILLE — Marvin “Ike” Isenhower enjoyed everything about his trip to Washington, D.C., with the Indy Honor Flight 29. But, he especially enjoyed all the attention from strangers.
“It was nice,” the Navy veteran said. “I’ll tell you how nice it was — two girls kissed me!”
The kisses, handshakes and cheers greeted Isenhower and about 84 other veterans on the day-long trip in April to see the memorials erected in their honor.
He was accompanied by Jeremy Bosch, a home social worker with the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System.
“Seeing the smile on his face was the best part,” Bosch said of Isenhower, a World War II vet. “That was worth everything.”
Isenhower, who will be 98 in July, joined the service on Jan. 9, 1944, and was discharged on Oct. 5, 1945, as a seaman second class. He served on the LST-227, which was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater.
Isenhower, who lives just north of Danville, had asked Bosch about taking a trip to see the monuments in D.C. Bosch did some research, and found that the Indy Honor Flight — leaving from Indianapolis — would be most convenient rather than driving to Springfield for the Land of Lincoln trip.
Bosch didn’t even think about taking the trip himself, but an Honor Flight staffer mentioned that he could serve as Isenhower’s guardian. So, they traveled to Indianapolis on April 12 for a dinner reception.
The next day, they gathered at Plainfield High School at 4 a.m. EDT to board a bus to the airport.
When the plane landed at Ronald Reagan Airport, two firetrucks provided a water cannon over the plane. Inside, they were amazed to see a reception with a band, pageant queens and people cheering and clapping.
“It was impressive,” Bosch said. “It brings tears to your eyes.”
Then the veterans boarded buses, and had a police escort — which was a harrowing experience as the escort maneuvered its way through traffic.
The veterans saw the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery and visited memorials to World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Iwo Jima, Disabled Veterans, Air Force, as well as the Lincoln Memorial.
Isenhower couldn’t pinpoint his favorite site, saying the entire day was perfect; all of the sites were new to him.
Bosch had been to the capital when he was in high school, so it was interesting to see the new memorials.
Everywhere they went, the veterans were approached by strangers who wanted to hear their stories.
Isenhower was wearing his WWII cap, Bosch said, adding, “I could see people pointing it out and whispering in awe. I was impressed with how people recognized the significance of the presence of a WWII veteran.”
There was just a handful of WWII vets on the Honor Flight, and Isenhower was the oldest. He was presented a quilt made by a 93-year-old woman, also a vet.
On the return flight home, the veterans had mail call. Isenhower received dozens of letters from students, staff at the VA and others. One student included an “I Like Ike” button.
“My colleagues were phenomenal,” said Bosch, who asked members of the social work department to write letters of appreciation. “They pulled through for him.”
When the veterans returned to Indianapolis, they gathered at Plainfield School, where several hundred people greeted them with cheers and music. Even WWII veterans didn’t get such a festive homecoming, Isenhower said.
Summing up the trip, Isenhower said, “It was almost perfect. I couldn’t ask for a trip as complete as that one.”
Bosch said, “It was beyond words. I was very proud and happy and grateful to be part of it.”
Isenhower was born near Westville, and grew up in Fairmount. He graduated from Fairmount High School in 1939. At 22, he joined the Navy, and spent the rest of his tour on the ship, spending just a total of six hours on land.
His ship was one of the first to hit the beach in the Philippines. He also recalled seeing a Japanese plane that was trying to crash into the ship, and the fiery aftermath when it was shot down. The ship also participated in the assault on Okinawa.
Isenhower survived the war, saying, “The man upstairs was watching over me.” However, he later battled tongue and skin cancer.
He received three Bronze Stars.
After service, he spent more than 30 years with Danville Central Loan, serving as manager the last eight years. He was married to Lucille for 64 years; she died five years ago.
He’s a member of the DAV, Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion.
To see a video of Marvin Isenhower’s trip, go to YouTube and type into the search box: JB Honor Flight Experience
Learn more and see more photos at https://indyhonorflight.org/. There’s also a Facebook page.