The Times West Virginian

Local News

May 16, 2014

Seeing memorials again ‘really meant a whole lot’ to Robert Lefever

WASHINGTON — For Shinnston resident Robert “Bob” Lefever, there was one more chance to see the memorials in Washington, D.C.

That chance came for the World War II Army veteran when his wife came across an article about an Honor Flight. The flight took place Saturday, and Lefever was aboard the plane that took veterans to see their memorials at no cost to them.

Lefever had seen the memorials before, but that was years ago. He said the second time around was even better.

“Being as old as I am — I’m 88 years old — knowing that I’ll never be back here, it really meant a whole lot,” Lefever said.

The Clarksburg Honor Flight, which was organized by Honor Flight Huntington Network, left

from the North Central West Virginia Airport in Bridgeport. The flight took 92 veterans from the North Central West Virginia area.

When the plane landed early Saturday morning at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Lefever wasn’t expecting the hundreds of people waiting for him in the terminal.

“I tell you, that was really awesome,” Lefever said after making his way through the crowd. “That reception was something else.”

Lefever said seeing all those people come out on a Saturday to thank him and the other veterans for their service made him proud to have served.

“The people that came out to cheer us on was just really great,” he said.

The first stop was the World War II Memorial. Lefever said being at the memorial a second time really hit home.

“I didn’t think much of it the first time, but the second time — I can’t even think of the words,” he said. “It was so nice to see.”

After graduating from high school in Clarksburg, Lefever and his brother enlisted in the U.S. Army and headed to Washington, D.C. That’s where they parted ways, going to different states for basic training.

Following basic training, Lefever was sent to France. He served in World War II from 1944-46 and in the 66th Division, which was called the Panther Division.

Luckily for Lefever, he could speak French because his grandparents were from France.

During his service in France, Lefever was able to see his brother for the first time since enlisting. Lefever said he never thought he wouldn’t see his brother again.

“When you’re 18 or 19 years old, you never think about that,” he said. “Danger was never an issue. We just took it and went on.”

Lefever still remembers the sights and sounds of World War II. He described the noise that German 88 aircraft guns made as sounding like ripping newspaper.

“We would take cover in barns when we heard those guns,” he said.

When Lefever visited Washington on Saturday, memories of his time served came back.

Even though he didn’t serve in the Vietnam War, Lefever said seeing the Vietnam War Memorial was emotional.

“It just blows my mind the guys that got killed in Vietnam,” he said.

At one point during the trip, the three buses took the veterans through a tour of Washington, D.C., to see other significant buildings in the area. It was the first time Lefever had seen the other side of the nation’s capital.

“When we went by the Pentagon and everything else, I thought that was great,” he said. “I had never seen that before.”

While heading back to the airport, the veterans were given letters and cards from their family, friends and others. Lefever said he wasn’t expecting to get written notes thanking him for his service.

“I’ve looked at those two or three times since I’ve been back,” he said.

When the plane landed in Bridgeport after a long day, Lefever had no idea that hundreds of people would be welcoming him and the others home.

“Wasn’t that awesome?” he said. “I couldn’t get over all those people coming out on a Saturday night. It was unbelievable that they remember us going to war.”

One of the most memorable things about the trip for Lefever was just being with other veterans and sharing their experience.

“It was a really moving event,” Lefever said.

Lefever said he made two good friends on the trip: veteran Carl Nuzum Jr. and his son Kevin Nuzum, who was their guardian.

Email Emily Gallagher at egallagher@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.

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