On Saturday, July 3 the boys were back in action at the 39th Annual Field Club Independence Day Parade. It was an amazing feeling to be back out among a spirited crowd at one of Omaha's best neighborhood parades. This year we had Joe representing a LRRP from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Conner representing an infantryman from the 34th "Red Bull" Division, Jeff representing a US Army infantryman in HBTs, Matt representing a paratrooper of the 101st Airborne Division, and Eric representing a Captain from the 2nd Ranger Battalion. We had a great time seeing each other again and we're already scheming up something special for 2022 and the parade's 40th Anniversary.
The highlight of my Memorial Day was finding and cleaning the gravesite of Lt. Col. Alfred Thomsen of Omaha. He was the 3rd Battalion commander of the 134th Infantry Regiment, a Nebraska National Guard unit that made the Cornhusker state proud during World War II. The 134th took Hill 122 on July 15 and was "officially" the first unit to enter St. Lo. Thomsen was wounded by German artillery on July 30 and died a few weeks later when a blog clot reached his brain. The Big Colonel or "Tommy" as he was known was a larger than life personality and a legend in Nebraska's military ranks. He's buried in Westlawn-Hillcrest cemetery, and surprisingly he's only 50 yards or so away from my parents' burial site! His marker is right at base of an ancient tree and near the Westlawn Singing Tower which has watched over him for many, many years. I read aloud excerpts from 'Biography of a Battalion' and some of author James A. Huston's recollections of his friend and the leader of so many Nebraska boys. Lt. Col. Thomsen has been a hero of mine for over 20 years now when I first started learning actual WWII stories from WWII veterans, so it was nice to finally slow down, sit with him, and share some French Calvados at long last.
On Saturday, May 29 the fellas were back in action at a monuments re-dedication ceremony at Omaha's beautiful Memorial Park. It was a gorgeous, sunny day with Eric and Cody representing H/507, Will representing F/502 and Joe representing the 101st Airborne in Vietnam. There were parachute jumpers and a nice presentation by various speakers including our 2nd District Representative Don Bacon. Afterwards we had lots of photos taken at the Airborne Memorial which was one of the monuments being formally re-dedicated after it's move from Heartland of America Park. It was a great chance to remember and honor all of our Airborne veterans throughout our nation's history.
On Friday evening, May 28, the World War 2 Guys marched in a Memorial Day kick-off parade through downtown Omaha in honor of our nation's fallen. This event was organized by Bill and Yvonne Williams of Patriotic Productions with loads of other local sponsors chipping in. In attendance for our group were Jeff honoring World War II, Eric honoring the Korean War, a new member Joe who honored the Vietnam War, and Cody honoring Operation Desert Storm. All of our guys looked great and it was really neat to see us showing the progression of the American soldier through the 20th century. The parade kicked off at 12th and Farnam St. and headed east to 10th St. and then up the hill to the Durham Museum. We have never seen crowds as big as this in downtown Omaha. It was simply spectacular and very awe-inspiring! The organizers would like this to be an annual event going forward so we will definitely be back in 2022.
On Saturday, July 4, the World War 2 Guys celebrated Independence Day back at our favorite neighborhood parade for Field Cub's reverse parade or EDARAP as they called it. The plan was for neighborhood residents and visitors to either drive or walk a pre-planned parade route to see all of the cool front yard displays and patriotic spirit throughout the historic neighborhood. For our group we had Will and Conner representing WWII, Cody representing the Marines in the Korean War, and Eric representing the Vietnam War. It was nice to be back out on the 4th of July in our hometown and nice to see so many smiling faces and waves from passers by!
On May 25, the World War 2 Guys visited St. Mary's Cemetery for our annual cleaning of the Furmanski brothers' gravesites. It's always amazing at how overgrown a headstone can get in one year's time. This year at St. Mary's we thoroughly cleaned and trimmed around headstones for Privates First Class Floyd and Aloysius Furmanski, Flight Officer Martin P. Schmitt, Jr. and Sergeant James P. McNeil. Afterwards we went to Omaha Central and laid flowers at the Central High School Vietnam Memorial. We then went on to spend some time at Omaha's Memorial Park where we were able to see the relocated Airborne Memorial and the Victory '95 Memorial which both looked outstanding in their new home.
On Wednesday, July 4, the World War 2 Guys took part in our third annual Field Club Neighborhood 4th of July Parade. This year we went with a World War II Pacific theme representing the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy. Eric was a Marine lieutenant with his Tommy Gun, Cody was an M1 carrying Marine infantryman, and Jon was a Navy Corpsman. We all looked great and got lots of shout outs from the crowd. The highlight of the parade was when one of the parade onlookers passed out right as we were marching toward him. Jon and Cody immediately lept into action and administered help to the man suffering from heat stroke and dehydration. They both performed admirably in an unexpected emergency sitauation. There's no greater feeling than knowing the guys in front of you and behind you can help with any emergency at any given moment. Great job Jon and Cody and Semper Fi!
On Monday, May 28, the World War 2 Guys gathered for our annual Memorial Day visit to St. Mary's Cemetery in South Omaha to once again honor Floyd and Aloysius Furmanski. Cody, Jon, Eric and Grant spent time cleaning the grave markers of the two brothers both killed in the summer of 1944. We held a silent vigil and played Taps to honor the incredible sevice and sacrifice of Floyd and Aloysius and all of our fallen military heroes. Afterwards, we visited Omaha's Central High School and laid flowers at their Vietnam War Memorial erected to honor the Central High students who gave their lives for their comrades and their country in Vietnam. It was a great day to get out and honor those who gave all so that we could have today.
On the evening of Saturday, January 6, the World War 2 Guys got together for a nice winter dinner and unit meeting. This was our largest gathering to date with Cody, Jeff, Jon, Matt, Luke, Will, Eric and Casey in attendance. We chose Gerda's German Restaurant & Bakery, a local Omaha favorite and pretty much the only place in town serving authentic German food. Once we had all arrived, an unexpected highlight of the night was an actual Battle of the Bulge veteran briefly stopping by our table to say hello and admire our uniforms. You hardly ever see World War II veterans anymore so just seeing this gentleman was a special moment for all of us. We started off the night with some yummy Oktoberfest and Wheat Beers followed by platefuls of Schnitzels, Sauerbraten, Red Cabbage, Potato Salad, Spaetzle and Goulash. Our unit discussion was focused on upcoming winter and spring events with lots of laughs in between. Eric, Jeff and Cody dressed in 507th uniforms with Will, Matt and Jon dressing in some fancy 1940s attire. It was a fun night with great friends and just another example of why we're such an amazing group!
The World War 2 Guys took part in our 2nd Annual Field Club Neighborhood Parade on Tuesday, July 4. Once again we celebrated Independence Day by portraying the men of the 507th PIR in our D-Day uniforms. This year our parade crew was comprised of Eric, Will, Cody and Jon. The morning temperatures weren't terrible but the humidity was really high so the M42 Jumpsuits loaded down with gear got a little uncomfortable. But it was a great parade with a lot of neighborhood enthusiasm and a good time was had by all!
Read all about the great events that the World War 2 Guys take part in throughout the year.