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Published: 8/25/2010

2 daughters sponsor Honor Flight trip in memory of their dad

BY CLAUDIA BOYD-BARRETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
In 1945, Mr. Feldstein was a Navy signalman on the SS John Swett. Several of his friends were killed in the war. In 1945, Mr. Feldstein was a Navy signalman on the SS John Swett. Several of his friends were killed in the war.
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The two retired high school teachers will Wednesday accompany 24 veterans on an Honor Flight to Washington to visit the memorial. The sisters sponsored the flight themselves as a way to honor their father - who died in 2001 - and his fellow servicemen.

"This is an opportunity to make my Dad really proud, and to make whoever I'm assigned to have a really wonderful time," Ms. Simko said. "I see it as making people have a day they never forget, a day they can glow about for the next few weeks or years."

Mr. Simko grew up in East Toledo and served in the army's

100th Infantry Division from 1942 until 1945. He fought throughout Western Europe.

In 1945, while leading his squad in an attack against the Germans, Mr. Simko was severely wounded by an exploding shell.

Doctors weren't sure he would even live, his daughters said. It's thought a pack of cigarettes in his pocket may have saved his life by spilling into his wound and causing the blood to coagulate.

In January, 1946, Mr. Simko received an honorable discharge.

He continued working for the military as a civilian for the rest of his life, first at the Rossford Ordance Depot in Perrysburg Township and later at the Army Tank Automotive Center in Michigan. He received numerous medals, including a Purple Heart, for his service during the war.

Mr. Simko was left with a big scar on his right side and never fully regained feeling in his right arm, Mrs. Enck and Ms. Simko said.

"He really didn't say very much about [the war]," Mrs. Enck said. "But when he did it was like, 'Wow, are you kidding?'"

Yet despite Mr. Simko's bravery and his dramatic experiences during the war, his death came before the 2004 dedication of the World War II Memorial.

Ms. Simko and Mrs. Enck said their father, who was a regular at reunions for his 100th Infantry Division, would have relished the opportunity to visit the monument.

"I guarantee, he would have said, 'We're going!'•" Mrs. Enck said.

"He's not physically going to be with us, but he is going to be with us," Ms. Simko added.

As well as visiting the World War II Memorial today, participants will see the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery.

They will receive meals and transportation around the capital in a luxury motor coach.

The group organizing the flight, Honor Flight Northwest Ohio, is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization, which since 2008 has escorted 389 veterans to Washington on 14 flights.

The trips are free to veterans, paid for with donations.

Neither Honor Flight leaders nor the two sisters would say what today's trip is costing them.

But Jim Tichy, spokesman for Honor Flight Northwest Ohio, did say that the flight is the first sponsored entirely by one family.

He said he hopes Ms. Simko and Mrs. Enck's gift will inspire more families to do the same. There are 500 veterans waiting to take a flight.

"I just think it's a wonderful gesture," Mr. Tichy said. "So many of our guys and gals are either in financial need or need some physical assistance to get there, and that's what Honor Flights provides for them."

Among those traveling on the flight today will be 84-year-old Jerry Feldstein of Maumee.

After spending nearly two years on the waiting list, he said Tuesday he was very excited to be taking the trip.

He served as a Navy signalman in the South Pacific and in the Philippines and lost several friends during the war.

"I'm really looking forward to [seeing the Memorial] and I think I'll have lots of emotions once I see it," Mr. Feldstein said.

"I'll see a few names on there that I am probably familiar with."

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at:

cbarrett@theblade.com

or 419-724-6272.



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