By Lilli Dwyer
Early on the morning of Monday, Aug. 7, the Purple Heart Honor Flight took more than 100 veterans on a trip from the 122nd Air National Guard base in Fort Wayne to Washington D.C.
After being honored with a special banquet the day before, the veterans visited the nation’s capital and saw sights including the United States Navy Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery.
Honor Flight Northeast Indiana is a nonprofit that organizes four to six of these trips every year. The veterans on this trip were all Purple Heart recipients and had served in conflicts ranging from the Korean War to Desert Storm, but the majority served in the Vietnam War.
Among them was Dave Schwartz, a Syracuse resident and active member of his local community. Schwartz served in the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1968 after being drafted. He was just 21 at the time, but said he was not scared before fighting in the war.
“In training, they try to prepare you for what lies ahead,” he said. “But until you actually experience it, you don’t know what’s there.”
He was given a Purple Heart after being wounded in combat. When describing his thoughts on receiving his Purple Heart, Schwartz laughed. “You definitely earn it, but it’s not something you go and try to earn,” he said.
Schwartz was highly positive about his experience with the Honor Flight banquet and D.C. trip. “It wasn’t a big fuss,” he said. “They treated us just great. They bent over backwards to support us, for one, and then there’s the honor of getting to go. Not just for the Purple Heart, but for your service.”
Schwartz said that while he doesn’t like to talk about his experiences in the war very much, he does appreciate being recognized for having served. After their plane touched down in Indiana again, Schwartz and the other veterans were welcomed back by crowds of people at Fort Wayne’s Memorial Coliseum. Schwartz’s own family was there to greet him with homemade signs reading “Welcome Home, Dave.”
Schwartz is actively involved in his community today. He works part-time as a funeral assistant for Titus Funeral Home, serves on the Wawasee Lake Patrol each summer and plays Santa for kids at the Wawasee Community Center during the holiday season. Schwartz said that community service is a very important value to him.
“It’s no fun just to sit around and do nothing,” he said.“I think it’s important to reach out and serve your community. Do the best you can to keep it going, keep it clean, so everybody can enjoy what’s going on in the neighborhood.”