Iowa WWII veterans take to air in Stearman biplane

Veteran's Voices

OTTUMWA, Iowa — Three World War II veterans from the Ottumwa area were treated to a ride in a World War II-era aircraft. A Stearman biplane is one of six of such restored aircraft touring the United States with an organization called Dream Flights. The pilots are visiting 300 cities to give rides to over a thousand World War II heroes.

Bill Jones, Chuck Osing and Allan Augustine were escorted to the Ottumwa Regional Airport in the retirement home’s activity bus. At least one of the veterans was reportedly dressed and ready to go at 6 a.m. for the 10:30 a.m. event.

Steph Christner works at Great Oaks Estates where the three veterans reside. “I was sitting in a marketing Zoom meeting and it was mentioned. I got off the Zoom meeting and I thought that was pretty cool, let’s find out more information,” said Christner. “I sent a few emails, got information back, yeah, we’re definitely going to send them up.”

The three veterans, Osing, Augustine and Jones, were honored with a brief program, including a color guard and a speech from the local chaplain, Doug McAntire, at the VFW Post 775 in Ottumwa.

“When you talk to the elderly veterans, they have a way when they share their story to put you where they were,” said McAntire. “These World War II veterans are dying at a fast rate. We as Americans need to take advantage of them while they are still here and get their wisdom.”

The veterans were greeted by members of the community and thanked for their service.

“A rare opportunity we get to thank those people, the greatest generation,” said Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks from Iowa’s 2nd District. “They really not only served to end atrocities in Nazi Germany and the march of socialism across Europe, but also I think were role models for all of us.”

The three veterans spent time sharing stories from their service. One even remembered a phone call home to his family after serving in China.

“I called my mother, my folks from Seattle. I lived in Batavia and they just had one of those little telephone operators, single operators, and she wanted to know who was calling. I gave my name,” said Augustine. “She said just a minute, I know where his mother is, and she was over across the street at a picture show, so she went and got her, and she came back and I got to talk to her.”

Jones was the oldest of the veterans at 100 years old. “I’m not done yet!” Jones was quoted as saying at his recent birthday party.

“There were a lot of hoorahs and hoorays when we landed in New York,” said Jones, reflecting on the end of World War II. “I was near Berlin when the war ended.”

In the interview, Jones added this comment: “It’s hell being 100. You can’t remember anything!”

Jones was the first to climb into the plane, with assistance. After a brief 15-minute flight in the bright yellow plane, he was asked what he thought of the ride.

“It was great, it was real good,” said Jones.

The Stearman biplane left Ottumwa for more veterans in other cities planning to take to the skies.

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