Vets travel, see monument

Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Charlie Hanie, 89, of Old Hickory steadies his old friend Robert Vernon Day, 86, of Chapel Hill as they walk from the Lincoln Memorial toward the World War II Memorial at the foot of the Reflecting Pool.

Two World War II veterans, now living in the Chapel Hill community, were among 102 other Tennesseans last week when they flew to Washington to visit the World War II Monument and others in our nation's capitol.

The Music City Honor Flight included Robert Vernon Day and Austin E. "Doc" Manire, both 86. They enjoyed the camaraderie and organizers were "constantly reminded of why we refer to this group as 'the greatest generation,'" according to former VFW Commander in Chief and retired Army Col. John Furgess, chairman of the Honor Flight on U.S. Airways.

Day earned the Bronze Star on the Island of Leyte in the Philippines.

"I guess I stuck my neck out," he said. "I volunteered to put communications on a hill. They didn't think I'd come back, but I did."

The phone line relayed spotter reports on where to bomb the enemy.

Manire lives at Unionville in Bedford County, but the house is about five miles from the Chapel Hill Methodist Church. He's the senior vice commander of the Disabled American Veterans of Marshall County.

When he was a private first class, carried an M-1, a submachine gun and a .45 automatic pistol.

"It was Hell," Manire said of war. "I was in the Battle of the Bulge, in Italy, North Africa, Casablanca..."

The list goes on. He worked in several Military Intelligence Service Detail Interrogation Centers - setting them up at different places to get information from prisoners of war.

"I never saw any of them mistreated," he said. "They were treated well. Fed fairly well. We had about 100 Jewish, Polish and English interrogators who knew German."

A spy was put in with the prisoners at night to get information, he said. In France the Germans put on American uniforms, spoke English, turned road signs around, and infiltrated.

After New Years Day 1945, the weather cleared, Manire said, "and waves of American and English bombers flew over and over and I realized, 'We're going to win this thing.'"

His stepdaughter, Pat Bolin, cooked his breakfast Thursday morning as he told his war stories.

Like Bolin, Day's daughter escorted her veteran through the marble monuments to the courage of so many.

Still, Kathy Kieffer reports, there were sparks: "Charlie was looking for a widow and a pot of gold" on the trip.

Charlie Hanie, 89, of Old Hickory, walked with Day toward the World War II Monument with an arm around Day's waist to steady an old comrade walking with a cane.

Day and his wife, Lois, will have been married 63 years on Oct. 5. He's originally from Santa Fe. He worked in the aircraft industry at AVCO, now Voight, in Nashville, and moved to Nolensville in 1971 and after 28 years they moved to Chapel Hill when the house next to their daughter's home became available.

Day is "hard of hearing," says Lois, adding he enjoyed the trip and the old soldiers sang songs on the bus as it drove them around Washington.

Between bus rides from one place to another, there was a lot of walking.

"His feet were sore," Lois said. "He had a hip replacement and walks with a cane. You should have seen him go through security."

Day became aware of the trip because of his other daughter, Diane McCord, a retired teacher in Franklin.

The flight to Reagan National Airport in Virginia was on the morning of Sept. 22. The soldiers and their escorts returned that evening.

Washington D.C. is hot in the summer and the visitors "drank every drop of water" provided, Kieffer said. "The veterans wanted for nothing on the trip."

During the war, Day got relief from the White House where President Truman decided to drop atomic bombs on Japan.

"We were getting ready to hit Japan, but they dropped that bomb and that stopped it," Day said. "We were drawing ammunition and stuff to make a beach head."

As for now, Day said, "It's an altogether different war than what we were in. They don't know who they're fighting and we did. It doesn't matter if they were in uniform if they shot back. We were in close contact with them all the time."

And as for the monument: "It's really nice. It's pretty."

His daughter says, "If there are any veterans who could go on this, they really need to go. The next flight is in May."

At least seven other flights have been made from Tennessee through a program that started in 2005 in Ohio where a handful of pilots flew Piper and Cessna planes. It's grown to include 747s and more than 50,000 vets have been taken to the World War II Monument.