Airmen visit vets, bring back memorable stories

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Stacey Haga
  • 21st SW Public Affairs
His fair skin may have wrinkles and his hearing may not be what it used to, but the blue eyes of war veteran Jack Egon appear bright and ageless as he talks of many decades gone by.

This visual rang true to four Airmen and two civilians as they visited residents at the Walsenburg Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home Oct. 26. Located 50 miles south of Pueblo, Colo., 69 war heroes call the center home.

"I look forward to hearing their stories," said Staff Sgt. Desiree Pogue, 392nd Training Squadron Det. 1. "Many people don't care enough to listen anymore, but it's important to hear their stories while they are still here."

The stories shared by Mr. Egon and other veterans were not just about past wars. Anecdotes about growing up, meeting their wife and watching sons play professional baseball were also shared. Another hot topic that surprised the visiting Airmen was the World Series; it seemed almost every veteran was a baseball fan.

The friendly, bright atmosphere of the center and its staff was welcoming to the Airmen, but it still took a little nerve to strike up a conversation with a stranger.

"It can be intimidating at first," said Master Sgt. Brent Packard, Air Force Space Command A2E, about meeting the veterans. "You aren't sure if they feel like talking."

However, once the conversation gets going, there is no telling where the veterans will take you.

Army Air Corps' Bill Moyle and his wife June had Airmen laughing when asked how long they had been married.

Mrs. Moyle looked coyly at her husband, her raised eye brow questioning him without a spoken word.

"Well, you tell them how long you have been married and then I'll know," smiled Mr. Moyle to his wife.

"Shame on you," she responded, gently slapping his arm.

However, Mr. Moyle got the last laugh when his wife couldn't come up with the magic number.

"Well, we got married as soon as we turned 18," she said with a thoughtful look on her face as she tried to come up with the answer.

With a little information from the staff, the Airmen figured out they had been married 68 years.

Another entertaining moment took place when the Airmen encountered a comedic veteran, Peter Baerg, the self-titled "thick-headed Minnesota Dutchman," who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He laughed as he dodged an Airman's request for his name by giving his creative alias. Some people would think he was a former spy by the way he also conveniently failed to remember what his job was in the Army.

Other veterans took the Airmen down memory lane and back again.

"I was crazy," laughed Cecil Clare, a Marine who received the Purple Heart during his service in Japan and China. "But I like these new military uniforms. They are soft."

Mr. Egon's stories showed two Airmen that kind, wealthy people do exist and the love of your life can be found on the way to lunch.

He considered himself a lucky man. He met his wife while walking to a diner for lunch. He saw a pretty woman walking on the sidewalk and asked her to join him, but she said she didn't know him, Mr. Egon said.

He wasn't going to give up that easily though.

He told her he didn't know her either and that's why they should have lunch. They've been together ever since, he laughed.

A few years later after he finished serving, a stranger who only knew Mr. Egon for about 30 minutes paid for his college at Notre Dame.

Mr. Egon also survived being hit by shrapnel in the face and his two sons played professional baseball.

The stories were entertaining to the visiting Airmen, but the highlight of their trip was something other than tales of the past.

"My favorite part of the visit was watching them, seeing their body language," said Sergeant Pogue. "It's a total warm fuzzy when you visit."

The other visitors concurred.

"The best part is supporting the veterans and thanking them for their service," said Sergeant Packard. "They really enjoy our company."

It's this sentimental value of visiting veterans that led Master Sgt. Michelle Spangler, AFSPC A2E, to coordinate visits to the Walsenburg center.

I wanted to share the good feeling I get visiting them with others, she said.

And the crinkling of skin around those ageless eyes and mature smiles, as the veterans are greeted by the Airmen, is a good indication they feel the same.