Honor Flight for Paul Pipoly - WNEM TV 5

Honor Flight for Paul Pipoly

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)

The Greatest Generation is a term used to describe World War II veterans, and those who contributed on the home front during the war.

But 71-years since the end of the war, the Greatest Generation is slowly fading away.

There are now fewer than 860,000 World War II vets still alive, out of the nearly 16 million who served.

Paul Pipoly, 89, is one of them.

"Most of them are probably like me, they don't want to brag about what happened or anything like that. They've done their duty."

Pipoly’s service started in 1945. He was 17-years-old at the time and decided to leave the family farm in Gladwin County and join the Navy.

Both of his brothers were already overseas and he felt it was also his obligation to serve.

"To go into the Navy, it was kind of a second choice, but my brother wrote home and told me I would be drafted because they were sending the Army people right into the front lines as soon as they got their basics…went over there."

After training he was assigned to the U.S.S. Passaconaway in the Pacific. A ship that supported the battle against Japanese subs.

"They flew me from Guam to Tinian to get on the boat. That was when I flew on a C-47. No seats, no nothing, sit on the floor. Every time you hit an air pocket, and it was rough air over there, the thing dropped like that and you'd be up here and the ship is down here.”

Pipoly was in the Pacific on Sept. 2, 1945 when Japan surrendered and the war officially ended.

Soon after he came home, mission accomplished.

"I had an interesting time in there, you know."

In the last seven decades Pipoly’s life has run its course.

He retired from General Motors, endured several knee surgeries and has been happily married to his wife Margaret for 65 years.

He never dreamed of being deployed again, but the sailor would have one more mission.

"I didn't really expect it. I heard about it, but that was it."

Pipoly packed his bags as he prepared for a journey from Traverse City to Washington, DC with 60 wartime comrades, chosen to be on the Honor Flight.

"I was really excited to get it."

For no cost the Honor Flight flies members of the Greatest Generation to our nation’s capital.

They see the war monuments up close, and watch the changing of the guard at Arlington.

The mission honors their service and sacrifice.

Jim Harris, a private pilot with CHI Aviation heard about Pipoly’s service and decided to contribute with what he does best, a flight free of charge to Traverse City.

He knew it would be hard for an 89-year-old to handle a 4-hour car ride up north.

"It's good to see any second world war veteran at this stage because there aren't that many left anymore," said Harris.

Harris, a veteran himself, got the OK from the owner of CHI to use the company’s 10-seater plane and fly Pipoly to Traverse City for free.

"It's seeing the smile on their face, number one, being able to do something to give back to them, all of these veterans, whether they saw combat or not, all of them have given a better future for us."

An ultimate honor paying homage to history with others who helped shape it.

"I think there's a lot of veterans out there that deserve it more than me."

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