For the past two years, members of the Greatest Generation have been honored and recognized every month with a ceremony at the Red Door Senior Center. And today's honoree is the final recipient of the Greatest Generation Award.
Today's honoree, Chuck Hartney, was born in Chicago, Illinois and joined the service in 1942. He went to radio operator training and was sent to England with a bomb group out of Utah. On his 32nd mission, chuck's plane was shot down over Hamburg, Germany. He and eight others parachuted to the ground- but were soon captured. Hartney served nine months as a POW but says he knew he would make it home someday.
Chuck Hartney, Greatest Generation Award Recipient: "Oh, I knew I would get out. It was just a matter of when. And finally, they came and got us." (What was that moment like?) It was great, better than Christmas!"
Hartney attempted to escape at one time with a friend- but failed- both were sent to solitary confinement. He was also part of 10,000 POW's sent on what's known as the "Death March"- they walked hundreds of miles for months at a time when they were forced to move to other camps. After the war ended, Hartney stayed in the Air Force for 23 years.
Since Veteran's Day 2008, 28 members of the Greatest Generation have been honored at the Red Door Senior Center. Harold White and Steve Briley have sponsored the award- paying for advertising, plaques and giving each honoree a monetary donation. Briley says the journey has been just as rewarding to the two lawyers as it has the recipients.
Steve Briley, Greatest Generation Sponsor: "It's been a labor of love for me because I've got to sit down and talk with some of these people and what they've done is really extraordinary."
On February 26th, the public is invited to attend a celebration as all 28 recipients return to the Red Door Senior Center for a "final salute."