BY MELANIE JONGSMA
LANSING, Ill. (October 14, 2019) – Honor Flight Chicago’s last flight of the 2019 season was Wednesday, October 16, and two Lansing veterans were aboard. Marine veteran Dennis Kranc and Army veteran Kenny Janowski spent the day in Washington, DC, being honored for their service in Vietnam.
Whenever a Lansing resident is on Honor Flight Chicago, the American Legion Riders from Edward Schultz Chapter 697 volunteer to escort that veteran home at the end of the day. The September Honor Flight included Lansing WWII veteran Otha Brownlow, but the Riders were unable to contact him ahead of time to get his approval for the escort. “We don’t want to force it on anybody,” explained Legion Rider President Nick Grigutis. The escort involves sirens and flashing lights, often at a late hour of a long day, so not every veteran prefers to accept it.
The last opportunity the Legion Riders had to escort a Lansing veteran was in June of this year, when Frank Schuster, a Navy veteran of the Korean War, returned home from his Honor Flight experience.
A Lansing welcome
It has become a tradition for members of the broader Lansing community to join the Legion Riders in welcoming veterans home from Honor Flight. Notice is often last-minute, and flexibility is required, but turnout has been good. Sunrise Health Foods (17650 Torrence Avenue) serves as the meeting place because it is close to the highway and an easy right turn off Torrence. Legion Riders and other welcomers begin gathering at 9:30pm and receive updates via text as the guests of honor land at Midway, disembark, meet their families, and finally load into their cars and head toward Lansing. It is not uncommon for them to arrive at the meeting spot well after 10:00pm.
The heroes’ arrival
Kranc and Janowski turned in to the Sunrise parking lot close to 11:00pm on October 16. Their day had begun at 4:00am when they checked into Midway Airport, but in spite of the early start and the busy day, the men were chipper and talkative to the small crowd who had gathered to meet them, express thanks for their service, and escort them home.
The Lansing Police Department and the Lansing Fire Department assign any available staff to provide the veterans a hero’s escort—with sirens, lights, and entourage—to their homes or to the American Legion. On this particular night, a 10:00pm car explosion demanded the attention of several officers and firefighters, but the escort was still celebratory.
Kranc and Janowski chose to be delivered to the American Legion, where they enjoyed drinks and stories with the Riders and other Legion members before heading home.
Honor Flight Chicago flies once a month from April through October. Honor Flight volunteers notify Trustee Maureen Grady-Perovich whenever a flight includes a veteran from Lansing. Grady-Perovich then works with the Legion Riders and the veteran’s family members to make arrangements.
Information about Welcome Home gatherings is published in the daily online edition of The Lansing Journal and shared via Facebook. Anyone who wishes to join the welcome is invited to meet at Sunrise Health Foods. No RSVP is required.