Gracyalny takes Honor Flight, enjoys D.C.
By Annette Aubinger
HOBART – If you talk to John Gracyalny you couldn’t ask for a better set up and a perfect day.
Gracyalny would be referring to his trip on the old Glory Honor Flight to Washington D.C. this past September.
Old Glory Honor Flight is a non-profit organization dedicated to transporting local World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans to Washington D.C. to see the memorials built in their honor.
This organization says thank you to those who served and offers them a free of charge day trip to Washington D.C. to see the memorials.
Gracyalny was a Korean War vet from 1952 to 1956.
Usually it takes a while to make the list of attendees to go on the honor flight. Gracyalny said he was lucky. He put his application in and two months later he was told he could go on the flight.
He said that doesn’t happen very often to get on a flight so quick. He thought there might have been a cancellation.
If it was a cancellation, he was very grateful.
“This is a one-time deal. I’m glad I did it. I saw all the monuments that could never have been seen one day on my own,” Gracyalny said.
Gracyalny was also grateful for his escort.
To go on the flight, you need an escort. His escort was Jordan Polzin who lives in Ashwaubenon. He said Polzin was great. Polzin has been an escort on other flights.
“It helps that he has been on the flights before. He had knowledge of the monuments,” Gracyalny said.
If the veterans feel they can’t walk the distance, the organization owns wheel chairs and offers the chairs to the veterans. Gracyalny was impressed with that service. He took the wheel chair and said Polzin did a super job wheeling him around. They had to go fast to see all the sights.
A special part of the day for Gracyalny was meeting his relatives. Gracyalny’s niece, nephew and grand-niece met him when he got to Washington. That meant a lot.
Gracyalny’s trip brought memories back from when he was in the service.
Gracyalny worked on a Navy destroyer in the damage control department. He did repairs pertaining to welding
and plumbing. If there was a fire aboard the ship, he had to know what to do to take care of the repairs.
When he entered the Navy, he was not married. He entered after high school. They were drafting for the Korean War, but he wanted to volunteer.
Because of his job, when the war ended, he had done a world tour.
“During that time, I saw a lot of action,” he said. “There were good times and bad times, but I would not trade those four years for four years of college.”
He said getting out at 22 he saw more than he wanted to see. He knew exactly how he didn’t want to wind up.
For Gracyalny, the Honor Flight was an excellent day for him. It brought back memories. He did not get a chance to visit with fellow veterans because there was too much to do.
On the flight back home there was mail call like when he served. It was a surprise for him.
He received an envelope. In the envelope were letters from his children, wife, grand kids and great grand kids. That meant a lot to him.
He said it was a very relaxing day, even though he did a lot of travelling. Getting in late because of bad weather (around 11 p.m.) he was not expecting a crowd. When he got off the plane surprise hit him again. There was a big crowd waiting for the veterans.
Gracyalny’s wife Lois, and children, Jeff, Jerry, Lo Ann, Lynette and Lori were all at the airport along with their spouses, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and friends to meet him.
He said he was shocked, did not expect it and it was a wonderful way to end a very meaningful day for him.