By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Oct. 14, 2006) -- With historical aircraft flying overhead, and the newly dedicated Air Force Memorial nearby, one World War II veteran said that no matter how irresponsible young people today may sometimes seem, it has been shown they can step up and shoulder a burden much greater than themselves.
Russell Neatrour, a veteran of WWII, flew the B-24 Liberator aircraft over Germany as early as 1944. At the time, he was about 22 years old.
"I think today -- we were 22 then, and responsible for a million dollar airplane," Mr. Neatrour said. Noting that while young people, both then and now, often shirk responsibility, when they need to, they can step up and do what needs to be done.
"We proved that they can be responsible when they have to be," he said.
Mr. Neatrour and his wife Nona Allen of eight years now live in Seabring, Fla. The two traveled together to Washington, D.C. so he could participate in the yearly reunion of the 2nd Air Division and to witness the dedication of the Air Force Memorial.
During WWII, Mr. Neatrour served as part of the 453rd, Bomb Group, under the 2nd Air Division, during the war. He flew 34 missions, dropping bombs over Germany.
"If I had flown one more, I would have come home," he said. "But the war ended first."
During his 34 missions, Mr. Neatrour said he never lost a single crew member. By the time he arrived in the European theater, the Luftwaffe had been pretty much eliminated, he said.
"What we had to worry about, really, was flack," he said. "And there was a lot of flack. I saw one kid, back in the bomb days, off of our right wing. He took flack. He broke in half and went down into the clouds and I saw three chutes open."
Mr. Neatrour said he knew the memorial was going to be dedicated, and had looked forward to seeing it. He also said he knows today's Air Force is still relevant and important.
"I think it's a great outfit," he said. "I had a grandson that was in, but he got out. I told him I thought getting out was a bad idea."