Thoughts on veterans who paved the way in WW II

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Commander of the 932nd Airlift Wing Operations Group, Col. Michael Maloney (standing), spoke to World War II veterans at the 388th Bomb Group reunion held in Fairview Heights, Ill., August 31, 2019. From left, crew members Tom McElherne, Jim Ragland, Jack Vann, Joe Hallam, and Chuck Neff gathered with family and friends to remember their service and those of former comrades who have passed on. The 388th BG was activated December 24, 1942 at Gowan Field just outside of Boise, Idaho. After going to England in the summer of 1943 and helping win the war there, they returned to Sioux Falls Army Air Field, SD and prepared to deploy to the Pacific. When the Pacific war ended, the group was inactivated on August 28, 1945.

Kim Klein, the president of the 388th Bomb Group Association was impressed by the visitors and their time spent with veterans.  

"A heartfelt thank you to Col. Michael Maloney and Lt. Col. Stan Paregien of the 932nd Airlift Wing. It was such an honor to have Col. Maloney as our Guest Speaker for the 70th Annual Reunion of the 388th Bomb Group Association. It is always humbling to watch our military community grow when connections are made through service. Listening to Col. Maloney’s story as a former B-52 Bomber Pilot brought those connections between generations ever closer. He also honored our heroes who were able to attend Saturday’s Banquet with challenge coins and, accepted in return, a 388th BGA coin presented by one of our founding Veterans, 2nd Lt Charles (Chuck) Neff.

"Having the Air Force Reserve actively present in our communities, and witnessing their enthusiastic support of these brave men who long ago helped secure our freedoms, gives an uplifting hope that these generations and their stories will not be forgotten," said Klein

Col. Maloney reflected on the evening:  "It was a true honor and privilege to be able to spend some time with the heroes of the 388th Bomb Group. As a former bomber crew member myself, I have always considered the Eighth Air Force crews to be the greatest of the greatest generation. I relayed to them that the 21st Century bomber force, and indeed the U.S. Air Force as a whole, sees them as the gold standard as to what an Airman should and could be. While we never have had to face the 88s and fighters over Schweinfurt and Regensburg or Berlin, their example carries us through. Always in the back of our mind is their example and the desire to never let down those who have blazed the trail before us. They never turned back. Because they never turned back, neither will we.

"As I got to know the men and their families, it struck me that the example they set did not end with the war. These men continued to set an example with their post-war lives. Their careers after the war are as impressive as their heroics. We need to take the time---now---before it’s too late—to learn all we can from them to be able to meet the standard they have set for us all, whether in uniform or out," Maloney continued.

"Most striking, however, was the love these men still had for one another. They were together during the worst times and still support each other in a very profound and touching way. They never left a comrade behind and their love for one another is the greatest example to us all," Maloney concluded.

Maloney represented the Air Force Reserve and thanked each veteran before presenting them a 932nd Operations Group coin. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Stan Paregien)