War Heroes Remembered
Bedford, Ky.,’s Fisher
makes Honor Flight trip to D.C.
Trimble County’s Thoke
passionate about honoring vets
BEDFORD, Ky. (July 2014) – Ret. Col. Glenn Fisher, 87, is testament to research that shows people who stay active physically and mentally improve their odds of finding fulfillment in old age.
Photo by Alice Jane Smith
World War II veteran Glenn Fisher of Bedford, Ky., fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He is posing by a plaque at the Trimble County Courthouse that honors fallen veterans, including his best friend Leland Wayne Alexander.
This World War II veteran continues to lead an active life. He had a long distinguished military career. A Trimble County farmer, he still has leadership positions as a bank director, soil conservation director and leader at the Bedford United Methodist Church. He has worked with youth, formed a local ministry to give away food and clothes, and spent many hours working to help his community. Recently, he was honored as a 60-year Mason, where he held leadership positions in his lodge. He always loved school and his extensive U.S. Army education.
Moreover, Fisher is a stellar example of the “Greatest Generation.” He put it this way: “Duty, honor and country” are the values that motivate him.
Fisher is one of the veterans Jeff Thoke had in mind when he thought about ways to honor World War II veterans. Ninety percent of the nation’s World War II veterans will be gone within the next five years, according to Thoke. He wants to “honor these guys while they still are with us,” noting that U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ statistics say 640-800 World War II veterans die each day. Thoke, 62, is New Castle (Ky.) Main Street Manager.
On June 6, the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Fisher joined in the “Honor Flight Program” from Louisville, Ky., to Washington, D.C., as one of 80 World War II veterans selected from the Bluegrass Chapter. It was something special for him. He was the only participant from Trimble County. Thoke had given him the application.
The first Honor Flight Tour took off from Springfield, Ohio, in May 2005, with 12 World War II veterans. Its goal was to honor World War II veterans by transporting them to Washington D.C., to visit their memorials. There is a waiting list for these flights, and there is no charge for the veterans.
Before Fisher left on his June 6 flight, staff from the Bluegrass Flight called to ask if he needed a wheelchair or other assistance. Characteristically, he said, “I don’t need any help, but I will help someone else.”
Of the three war memorials the Honor Flight veterans visit (World War II Memorial, Korea War Memorial and Iwo Jima Memorial), Fisher said he felt most moved by the World War II Memorial. He came close to tears when children visiting the memorial gave him a stack of handwritten letters and drawings saying what his military service meant to them.
“They touched my heart,” he said, referring to letters that called Fisher and others “the greatest generation ever.”
The Honor Flight veterans met Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, Third District Rep. John Yarmuth, and Sixth District Rep. Andy Barr. Photos were taken with the senator and representatives. “It was just a super fascinating day,” Fisher said. To end a spectacular day, almost 1,000 people greeted the Honor Flight upon its return to Louisville.
“It was almost unbelievable,” Fisher said. “I wanted to cry.”
Although Fisher refers to himself as “just an old country boy,” he has had a distinguished military career. He spent 12 years as an enlisted man. In 1954, he was commissioned as an officer. He spent 30 years in the National Guard and Reserves, retiring as a colonel.
Motivated by the Pearl Harbor attacks, patriotism and his father’s World War I steel helmet, Fisher tried to enlist in the Army in December 1941. It took three or four attempts for him to convince the Army he was old enough to fight. Although he was born in October, he eventually convinced officials he was born in February and managed to become a soldier in February 1942 at age 16.
In 1943, Fisher learned that his mother, Mamie Ruth Moore Fisher, had died at age 39. While home on a 10-day leave, he learned his best friend, Leland Alexander, had been killed in the war. It was an intensely emotional time. Alexander’s name is on a plaque on the Trimble County Courthouse Square. Fisher still visits the plaque regularly.
In 1944, he fought in the terrible Battle of the Bulge. In 1945, he was wounded with a piece of shrapnel that exploded from behind a dyke on the Rhine River.
“I was just a kid and didn’t know what to do.”
He stayed alone in a fox hole, in and out of consciousness for many hours, until rescued by medics. While in the hospital, he learned that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had died. “I’ve always associated my being wounded with that day,” he said of the president’s death, on April 12, 1945.
Fisher cites two high points in his life. The first happened shortly after the war when he was selected to be in the Honor Guard for President Harry Truman, who was en route to the Potsdam Conference, July 1945, to determine postwar borders in Europe. He described President Truman as “a dapper gentleman.” The second key point was when Fisher was graduated with honors from the Command General College Flight School in Alabama.
One of the ways Thoke has found to honor veterans such as Fisher was to create a “patriotic festival.” The best way to do that was to change the name of the existing festival, the “New Castle Spring Fling,” and call it the “New Castle Patriotic Festival.” It is the only one of its kind in Kentucky. The June 14 festival honored 14 veterans from Henry, Oldham, Shelby and Trimble counties.
Thoke takes veterans to special events, such as the Landing Ship Tank cargo vessel No. 325, docked in Madison, Ind., last fall. On June 27, Thoke drove Fisher and Herman Stanley, 92, of Henry County, Ky., to see an exhibit of vintage World War II vehicles on display in Louisville.
Moreover, he honors the veterans by listening to them. “So many have not talked about the war until recently,” he said. Back then, they were expected to return home and resume their lives. Some still have nightmares, even after 70 years. “We didn’t know what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was then,” he said.
Thoke said he is motivated to give back to veterans, in large part because of his late father, Robert Thoke. “My father flew B17 bombers, and he was learning to fly B29 bombers for the invasion of Japan.” Thoke said. When he realized his father now would have been 91, he put “two and two together.” If he found a way to serve and honor World War II veterans, his actions also would honor his father.
Thoke now lives in the same farmhouse his father bought years ago in Trimble County. Living with him are his wife, Pam, and his mother, Caroll, who turned 89 on June 25.
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