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A 'once in a million moment'


Russ Sichley, 94, takes World War II Honor Flight

On his way to Washington, D.C., Russ Sichley experienced “one of the sweetest, most wonderful things.”

Two little girls at the Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport stopped and saluted at the 94-year-old World War II veteran.

“I told their folks ‘I sure know you’re raising these kids right.’ ” Sichley said. “So many people were screaming and hollering and calling us the greatest generation on earth. The whole thing was just awesome.”

Sichley, a resident of Gresham’s Village Retirement Center, recently returned from an Honor Flight with 49 other World War II veterans from Oregon through Honor Flight of Eastern Oregon.

Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization that has flown more than 100,000 veterans to Washington, D.C., since the program’s inception in May 2005. Its network includes 119 regional hubs across the country. Veterans are flown at no charge to visit memorials dedicated to their service.

Sichley served as a Navy coxswain during World War II on a destroyer in 10 South Pacific military engagements. During his service, from May 1943 through January 1946, Sichley earned three medals.

“I’m not a war hero,” Sichley said. “I had a job to do just like millions of other men and women. I did my job, but I’m not the kind who wants relics or ballyhoo.”

The oldest of his four brothers, Sichley remembers praying that if any of them had to be taken, it be him.

“It didn’t work out that way,” he said.

His 20-year-old brother, Roy Ellis Sichley, died in the Battle of the Bulge on Dec. 26, 1944. The faith that pulled him through the loss of his brother continues to inspire Sichley.

“I can’t preach or teach or give Bible studies, but I can help people,” Sichley said.

He and his wife Mary have spent more than 24,000 hours volunteering for Portland Adventist Community Services since 1962 and 8,000 hours at Adventist Medical Center since 1970.

Sichley said there were four sets of heros during World War II, those who gave their lives, the men and women who offered “productivity and patriotism” back home, the women who acted just as strong as men and those who returned home disabled or without body parts.

During his long weekend stay the third weekend of September, Sichley visited 20 Washington, D.C., memorials, along with statues.

A book written by Bill Sholin honors Sichley and his comrades aboard the USS Lang-DD399.

“No American in U.S. history has ever lived through a continuously recurring nightmare — in defense of his family and country — like these Navy fighting-men have,” the dedication page reads.

Sichley called the Honor Flight a “once in a million opportunity” that “boggled his mind.” He’s still pinching himself.

“I could hardly believe this was happening,” Sichley said.

In May, The Outlook wrote about a trio of East County veterans who took the Honor Flight, Leland “Lee” Johnson, Vernon Keiper and Richard Leibham.