Jack Yoder: Veteran takes Freedom Honor FlightChalk up another World War II vet who took a Freedom Honor Flight to the nation’s Capitol and enjoyed the experience. Jack Yoder, 84, Navy Seabee veteran of World War II, made the flight to Washington, D.C. on May 14 with his daughter Kaylene Nerby.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
Chalk up another World War II vet who took a Freedom Honor Flight to the nation’s Capitol and enjoyed the experience.
Jack Yoder, 84, Navy Seabee veteran of World War II, made the flight to Washington, D.C., on May 14 with his daughter and oldest child, Kaylene Nerby, of Altoona, who arranged the experience.
“She called me up and said, ‘What are you doing? Do you want to make a trip to La Crosse?’” said Yoder. The Honor Flight takes veterans, free of charge, on a one-day whirlwind visit to the monuments and memorials in Washington, D.C. Several have departed from La Crosse this year.
“I want to go back, so does she (Kaylene),” Yoder said during a conversation at his Hudson residence last week. “Everybody should see the World War II memorial.”
In addition to the World War II memorial, Yoder visited the Korean War and Vietnam War memorials and the Tomb of the Unknowns, among other monuments. It was his first trip to Washintgon, D.C.
The Korean War Memorial is a squad of soldier statues who appear to be advancing through low vegetation. Yoder said it was so real, “I expected one of them to speak.”
As with most veterans who take an Honor Flight, Yoder marveled at the organization of the whole event. “It was just like a wristwatch ...tic ... tic...tic,” he said.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” said Kaylene, who put up $500 to make the trip with her father and act as his guardian. “Everything was timed out and food was provided and water to keep the veterans hydrated,” she said.
Everything was so well organized. The group of about 100 veterans, guardians and support personnel had a police escort to the various monuments. When they stopped, the order was given to prepare the wheelchairs and they were ready when the old vets got off the bus, Yoder said.
At the World War II Memorial, Yoder stopped to be photographed near the engraving for Peleliu where he served. He also crossed over the Atlantic Theatre side of the monument to pay tribute to his older brother.
Gerald Yoder was a ball turret gunner on a B-24 stationed in England. “He was shot down in March 1944,” Yoder said. He landed in the North Sea when the crew bailed out and apparently drowned.
“His body washed up on the beach 30 days later at Zuiderzee (Netherlands). He was buried in Flanders Field,” he said.
Yoder and his family lived in Delavan, Minn., at the time and he was only 16 years old. He turned 17 in October. He enlisted in the Navy on Oct. 2, 1944. “I wasn’t called up until April 5, 1945,” he said.
“I had to get permission from my parents to join the Navy at 17,” he said. His dad didn’t mind signing for him.
“You’re not man enough. You’ll be home from Great Lakes in three weeks,” his dad replied.
His mother was harder to convince after losing her only other son in Europe, but she ultimately capitulated on the urging of his father who insisted Yoder would be home in a matter of weeks.
Yoder became a Seabee and took 10 weeks of training with the 1st Marines in Rhode Island before he was shipped overseas. His first stop was Hawaii, then Guam. After the war in the Pacific ended in August 1945, he was stationed in the Peleliu Islands northeast of New Guinea where he worked on an airstrip. His next station was Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands northwest of New Guinea.
The next stop was a small island he couldn’t remember the name of. “We evacuated people from the island because it was going to be used for atom bomb testing,” he said. Yoder was discharged from active duty later in 1946.
He drove trucks and was an over the road hauler for 50 years. “I drove my first truck when I was nine,” the Iowa native said. “We lived on a farm and one day the hired man couldn’t make it to haul grain. My dad took the Sears Roebuck catalog, put in on the seat and said I was going to drive that day.”
He moved to Hudson in December 1966. He has three children: Kaylene graduated from Hudson High School in 1976; son Kevin Yoder of Burkhardt, HHS 1978; and Shane Yoder of Eau Claire, HHS 1985.
While Yoder wants to make another trip to Washington, D.C., he said, “I wouldn’t want to live down there for all the tea in China….too much traffic.”
The mission of Freedom Honor Flight is to fly veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials that stand in their honor at no cost to the veteran. Priority is given to survivors of World War II and to any vets with terminal illnesses.
For more information on Freedom Honor Flight contact email@example.com or www.freedomhonorflight.org or call (608) 784-1015.