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Finally, closure for a veteran

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Connersville Korean War veteran Eugene Day receives well wishes from the hundreds of well wishers at Plainfield High School after returning from Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C. His daughter and guardian Carol Gray-Greenway, left, videos the event.
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Carol Gray-Greenwas hugs her father, Eugene Day, in front the Vietnam Memorial Saturday during his Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.

By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

The reception for Eugene Day and 84 other veterans Saturday at Plainfield High School could not have been more different than when he returned after serving in the Korean War.

Day and veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam took a trip to Washington, D.C., Saturday during the 31st flight for Indy Honor Flight, an all-volunteer group that sends veterans of those wars to see memorials in Washington.

Day is one of the three generations of the Day family from Connersville to serve in the military. His father, Lawrence Day Sr., served in World War I. Five of his sons and two grandsons followed into the military, serving in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm as well during peace time.

In a 2007 Veterans Day story about the family in the News-Examiner, Eugene Day said he served 16 months in Korea with the 8th Army, 17th Field Artillery, firing 8-inch howitzers.

The 17th Artillery supported troops trying to take or keep Pork Chop Hill in 1953, one of that war’s most famous battles.

Day said one of the guns shot so many times, the barrel warped from the heat. He also said the temperatures dipped well below zero many nights. The effects of the cold still bother his hands in the winter.

In the 2007 story, Day recalled racism in the Army until President Truman ordered integration. He served in a mostly African-American unit where men who deserved promotion did not receive it because of discrimination by officers from the Deep South.

Upon his return to his hometown, he worked at J.C. Penney for a short time, then Connersville Casket Co. before retiring from Design and Manufacturing.

The veterans and guardians received a dinner at PHS Friday night. After breakfast Saturday, their flight left at abut 6:30 a.m. to arrive to a crowd of well-wishers at Reagan National Airport in D.C. They traveled with police escort to the World War II Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Korean War Memorial, the Airforce Memorial and to see the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery.

During the return flight, the veterans receive mail call with letters from families, friends and school children, including Community Christian School, where Day received a send-off Friday.

Especially loud applause goes to the World War II veterans and those who earned Silver or Bronze medals and Purple Hearts. Day received loud applause for his service on Pork Chop Hill.

“We love you and we will never forget you, period,” IHF President Dale True told the veterans. “That’s what our mission is.”

“I had a beautiful day and met a lot of friends,” Day said at the homecoming. “Lord have mercy, they turned the women on me. I am going to go home and think about this day, it was a wonderful day.”

He sported lipstick on both cheeks after receiving kisses from women dressed in World War II era dresses.

“I wanted to see the Korean War Monument,” he said. “It was beautiful. It was saying something the way the men were staggered in the rice patty. All the other memorials, you just have to see it to believe it.”

Carol Gray-Greenway, his youngest daughter, served as his guardian for the day.

She said the day is so wonderful because the veterans get the pomp and circumstances they have been deserving upon returning to the United States, but often never received.

“The people coming up to them at the monuments, the crowds coming around them wanting information about where they served, it was amazing,” she explained. “For my dad, it was amazing because he never got anything when he came back, dealing with racism and other things. This is closure for him that things are better for him and for our country and community.”