By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - They are a generation of Americans living in the autumn of their lives, but their valor, dedication and patriotic fervor will live on.
Veteran's Day is celebrated each year in the U.S. on Nov. 11, but for an actual military veteran, it's just another day of life, a life filled with present day joys and struggles, and memories of past sights and sacrifices.
Harold Hunter, John Wakefield and Jim Donmoyer are three World War II veterans living in Indian River County and though their wartime experience differed, a passion and love for the country they served is what unifies them.
The three men reside in Indian River Estates, an adult retirement community. Dr. Hunter and Mr. Donmoyer were scheduled to join with a group of veterans in touring Washington, D.C. thanks to the southeast chapter of Honor Flight.
Honor Flight is a nonprofit organization that flies older veterans to the nation's capital for free to visit monuments to the wars and battles they fought in.
Dr. Hunter joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 and was discharged in 1946, then served in the U.S. Air Force from 1952-54.
After his service, he graduated from medical college and established a practice in Syracuse, N.Y.
"I was in college when I went into the service. In those days, everyone was eager to go," Dr. Hunter said.
While in the Air Corps, Dr. Hunter ran ferrying operations for aircraft in Europe. He transported dignitaries, mail, anything that needed to be moved.
Mr. Wakefield also flew planes while in the war, a P-38 and a P-51 to be exact.
While in the Air Force, he flew 69 bomber escort missions over Germany. He was awarded eight air medals, including two distinguished flying crosses.
On D-Day, he was flying one of the planes above Normandy Beach and saw the 5,500 ships covering the ocean off the coast, bombarding the shore with munitions.
"On D-Day, they woke us up at 2 a.m. and we had breakfast, and we got ready to fly our mission, still in the dark.
"As daylight came, I saw the ocean was covered in boats, boats everywhere," Mr. Wakefield said.
The guns were already going strong when he arrived overhead.
"It was like a great big Fourth of July celebration in the states, but it was far, far bigger," Mr. Wakefield said.
Mr. Donmoyer had a very different view from his ship the U.S.S. Arkansas in the Pacific Ocean when he joined the U.S. Navy at age 17 in 1944.
"They needed all the people they could get, all the warm bodies," Mr. Donmoyer said.
"I had my 18th birthday in the Philippines. Today they're still babes in the woods at 26 and getting free medical," he said.
As a seaman, Mr. Donmoyer worked in the engine room and after his term of service was completed, he went to college and received a mechanical engineering degree.
"The Battleship Arkansas was the oldest battleship in the fleet. It was built in 1911. It survived until 1945 when it was sunk in the Bikini atom bomb test. Now they don't have battleships anymore," Mr. Donmoyer said.
When all three men reflect on the state of the country and the lives people have today they fought to protect in the past, they are proud, but sad at how certain matters are handled today.
Dr. Hunter said recent information that has come out about the fatal attack on the U.S. ambassador overseas is tragic and devastating.
"I still call a spade a spade, because I don't believe in being politically correct. This going unaddressed is unacceptable to me. It is unforgiveable," Dr. Hunter said.
"I feel we are the best nation on earth," Mr. Wakefield said.
"If there were a reason for people to come out and fight, I'd be the first in line. They wouldn't take me, but I'd sure try," said Mr. Wakefield, 90.