When our nation asked them to serve, they put aside their fears and put on uniforms. Upon returning, they asked for nothing beyond a chance to go back to their daily lives.
James Schabowski, a Hebron resident and Kankakee Valley REMC member, was part of the last group of Lake County draftees in December 1969. He swore an oath at the induction center and flew to Vietnam. Schabowski served as a movement specialist, moving and tracking supplies from the supply depot and the seaport. While he had little exposure to direct combat, he was surrounded by it — like when a close friend died three weeks before he was scheduled to come home.
After 14 months “in country,” Schabowski returned to a nation that didn’t want to look him in the eye. He went to work at U.S. Steel, moved to Hebron, and got on with his life. Then, more than four decades later, he learned that he had been selected to participate in an Honor Flight.
James and his daughter, Catherine, who served as his guardian on the flight, met up with fellow vets at a local hangar, where they enjoyed breakfast as a high school band played patriotic tunes. They boarded a plane to Washington, D.C., and were greeted as heroes. At Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Schabowski thought of his Uncle Ted, who disappeared in a World War II crash near New Guinea. And at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, he found the name of the friend he lost and placed a flower as a final salute.
Upon returning to Indiana, the vets were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of family members, scouts, and other community members. Kankakee Valley REMC was proud to be part of that celebration as supporters of the Honor Flight program. “I was overwhelmed with delight to be selected to take part in an Honor Flight trip. Thank you to the REMC for its support of the program. It was a blessing to share this experience with my daughter,” stated Schabowski.
Today, Schabowski and his wife, Dee, continue to serve in the community. The couple has helped with Little League and scouting. In addition, the Schabowskis currently volunteer at the Men’s Overnight Shelter located at Liberty Bible Church along with the Porter Township Food Pantry and the Christian Clothesline Ministry located at the Salem United Methodist Church. “It’s a blessing to be able to give back and help people,” said Schabowski. Kankakee Valley REMC is pleased to have been able to honor his service to the nation and our community!
Kankakee Valley REMC has been a long-time financial supporter of the Honor Flight program. Honor Flight is an all-volunteer program with funding coming from donations from individuals across the country. These donors recognize the great accomplishments and sacrifices of veterans and want them to see their memorials. Through the donations and corporate support, veterans are able to participate in an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., free of charge.
Honor Flight operates three flights per year for veterans of World War II, Korean and Vietnam wars. If you are interested in participating in an Honor Flight, fill out an application at www.greaterlafayettehonorflight.org.