November 27, 2014

Elyria
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Veterans take advantage of Honor Flight service

ELYRIA — When Glenn A. Pomeroy boarded a plane Wednesday to travel to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II memorial, he wasn’t sure what to expect.Most certainly, he didn’t anticipate the vivid rush of memories that came flooding back during the daylong, all-expenses-paid excursion arranged by Honor Flight Inc.

STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE
Veterans Norm Heldt (left), Glen Pomeroy, John Polgar and Stanley Ortoski have taken advantage of Honor Flight’s trips to Washington, D.C.

Pomeroy, of Elyria, had the most distinct memories of fighting the Japanese on Guam and Okinawa. He recalled one horrible night on Guam when he and other Marines were dug into foxholes and were suddenly overcome by the enemy.

“There was wave after wave of Japanese, and I was the only one alive,” Pomeroy recalled. “I slid down and watched them go over me — I said to the Lord, ‘Let me see daylight.’ ”

When dawn finally broke, Pomeroy said he and one other survivor crawled — and then ran — back to their unit.

Some U.S. sailors caught searching for souvenirs from dead Japanese were forced onto burial duty, and one sailor objected, he said.

“The commander turned his carbine around and asked, ‘Do you see that dead Marine? Do you want to be lying next to him?’ ” Pomeroy said.

Pomeroy, 84, who later became an assistant safety service director in Elyria, popped into the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1079 on Friday with other veterans to express their gratitude for Honor Flight, which provides the excursions to the get veterans to the memorial, which was dedicated in 2004.

Veterans are assisted by guardians such as Leslee Zadorozny, of Avon, who accompanied a disabled veteran whose brother died in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

“He almost had me in tears when he knelt before the Wall of Stars (at the memorial) in honor of his brother,” she said.

Other vets who have taken the Honor Flight include John Polgar, 83, of Elyria, who ferried equipment and soldiers onto Omaha Beach on his Navy landing craft on D-Day.

“I was scared to death,” Polgar said. “I was only 19 years old.”

The water soon became red with blood because Germans had a perfect vantage point to fire onto the troops from pillboxes on the Normandy cliffs, he said.

“We’d take guys in, and they were killed on the beach,” Polgar said, shaking his head in horror.

The only relief came when U.S. destroyers were able to blow apart the German fortifications and soldiers and equipment could be safely brought ashore without a constant barrage of bullets.

Stanley Ortoski, 83. of Sheffield Lake, was crew chief of a B-17 bomber that flew missions over France and Germany with the Air Force.

The worst part was returning back to base and discovering which crews had been shot down or killed, he said.

“If you took a hit from a 30 mm (anti-aircraft shell), you would feel it,” Ortoski said.

Ortoski, who lied about his age and joined the Air Force at 16, said his hatred of the Nazis and everything they stood for kept him going.

“If I had got ahold of Hitler, I would have killed him,” Ortoski said.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.