Fermilab veterans celebrate service, dedication
WWII veteran Ray Waver talks about his experiences as a radio gunner for the 367th Heavy Bombardment Group, European Theater and as a prisoner of war. Waver, father of Fermilab’s Glenn Waver, was the main speaker at the Fermilab veterans’ organization’s annual Veterans Day event.
There are periods in Ray Waver's life that he'll never forget.
More than 100 veterans present at Fermilab's seventh annual Veterans Day event on Nov. 11 fell silent as they listened to Waver, a WWII veteran, recount the sights, sounds and sensations of the shells hitting his B24 bomber or the hunger, cold and physical abuse he endured as a prisoner of war.
"This is our day," said Brian Svazas, Fermilab's Medical Director and a former Navy captain. "Today we remember those who can't be with us: those who are deployed or have gone on."
President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared Nov. 11 Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all American veterans. The day was originally called Armistice Day to honor the moment the armistice was signed ending World War I, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
Veterans from WWII and more recent wars and conflicts watched the East Aurora High School Naval Junior ROTC present the colors, listened to "Taps" in honor of fallen soldiers and held a moment of silence for the recent tragedy at Fort Hood.
They also participated in a roll call for each branch of the military and listened to words of encouragement from fellow veterans.
But Waver was the day's main event. The 82-year-old recounted the days from his youth when as a radio gunner for the 367th Heavy Bombardment Group, European Theater, his plane was shot down. He was captured in a snow-covered field on Feb. 7, 1945, and spent the next six months at camps in Yugoslavia and Germany. His camp was eventually liberated by General George Patton's 3rd Army 99th Division.
"Everything in Europe was devastated. Getting back here to see buildings standing and people eating meat was like a new world," Waver said.
Waver is the father of Accelerator Division employee Glenn Waver. Joe Morgan, one of the event organizers, asked Ray Waver to participate after learning about Waver's experiences.
-- Rhianna Wisniewski