LaGrange Park man takes honor flight
Charles Tracy (center) salutes the Marine Corp presentation of colors at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. during an Honor Flight visit on his 95th bithday.
Education: Two years at DePaul and two years at University of Illinois, master’s degree from University of Chicago
Hobbies: Bridge, poker, golf until three years ago
Honor Flight: World War II veterans and terminally ill veterans from all wars receive priority, but Korean War and Vietnam War veterans are also eligible, according to the Honor Flight Chicago website.
Updated: October 7, 2012 6:08AM
LAGRANGE PARK — On Aug. 5, 1942, Charles Tracy began serving the U.S. World War II effort when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps’ Air Transport Command.
On Aug. 22, 2012, his 95th birthday, he enjoyed a well-earned, all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., courtesy of Honor Flight Chicago’s salute to veterans.
“It was the most organized thing I’ve ever seen. Great check-in and getting us to the plane. The reception in D.C. was quite well organized but it wasn’t as great as Chicago,” Tracy said. “There were, I guess, about 500 people who welcomed us back to Chicago. Some people knew it was my 95th birthday and made a point of giving me a welcome because of that. They gave me a happy birthday greeting.”
Tracy was one of about 80 people on the flight from Midway Airport to Dulles Airport. The veterans went to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and visited the World War II Memorial, among other sites.
Back in 1942, when Tracy began his service for the Army Air Corps, he was not sure what to expect.
“I had no idea what the day would bring. They just told us to get on a bus and go to the Loop to get a physical exam and then be moved out,” he said.
Since Tracy had deficient eyesight, the military classified him as “limited service.” Tracy trained people in “noncombat functions,” taking wounded people who needed further medical attention back to the United States and transferring them to hospitals.
“We would train nurses to take soldiers back for further medical attention and food. [We] also helped with actual transport. It was called medical air evacuation,” he said.
Tracy served at Chanute Air Force Base, now known as Rantoul National Aviation Center, in Rantoul, Ill.; Bowman Field near Louisville, Ky.; and Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas.
The most interesting thing that he recalled was having gone once to the Louisville Churchill Downs and winning “a few dollars” at the Kentucky Derby.
He began working as an accountant for International Harvester after the war. He earned his CPA certificate in 1949 and later retired after 32 years with the company.
He was married to his first wife for 50 years until she passed away in 1994 and he later remarried. He has four children from his first marriage, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He had much more travel experience after the war, spending the summers traveling when his children were little, visiting Ireland six times, vacationing in Florida for 23 winters and going to the “outstanding” Glacier National Park. He even worked in Australia for three years.
In 2003, Tracy began living at Bethlehem Woods Retirement Community in LaGrange Park.
“I like living here, especially because of the people I’ve met and the good living conditions. I’m well-fed and have a comfortable apartment,” he said.
Tracy isn’t slowing down by any means. He still votes and would like to be more politically active. The issue he said he feels most strongly about is abortion.
“I’m proud of my children, my CPA certificate, to be an American, and I’m proud of my Catholic faith,” Tracy said.