Local WWII veteran celebrated with Honor Flight trip

Betty Gilby is welcomed home by, from left, grandson Tim Ciancio, his girlfriend Jacki, granddaughter Megan Gilby, and her boyfriend Joseph at the San Diego Airport.
Betty Gilby is welcomed home by, from left, grandson Tim Ciancio, his girlfriend Jacki, granddaughter Megan Gilby, and her boyfriend Joseph at the San Diego Airport.

FALLBROOK – First Lieutenant Elizabeth “Betty” Gilby served in the Army during World War II in Algeria, North Africa, Italy, and Yugoslavia as a registered dietician in the Army Medical Department. She recently participated in the Fall San Diego Honor Flight, part of a national network dedicated to transporting veterans to visit their memorials in Washington, D.C., at no cost.

The General Federation of Women’s Clubs International (GFWC) strives to honor veterans for their service, and proudly supports the Honor Flight Network. Fallbrook Woman’s Club (FWC) was proud to have sixth vice-president Pam Hermansader act as guardian and escort their 97-year-old and 26-year member on this memorable trip.

On Sept. 29, all 80 veterans of the Fall Honor Flight met at the San Diego Airport for breakfast before boarding their charter flight to Baltimore, Md. On the flight, it was time for mail call, and each veteran was handed a basket of correspondences written to them by friends, family and the community.

Gilby received 90 pieces of mail that had been sent to her by members of FWC, Encore, AAUW, Fallbrook Art Association, her family, Girl Scouts and Brownies, and schoolchildren from all over the United States. She was surprised and highly impressed with the knowledge of the students who wrote to her with cards, letters, and poems. Gilby said that they wrote of their teachers impressing upon them the importance of these veterans or otherwise they would be living in a far different world and, probably, speaking a different language.

When the group arrived in Baltimore, they were greeted by airport personnel with cheers and waving flags. After checking into their hotel, they were welcomed with a banquet.

Early on Saturday morning, they arose to a cold rainstorm. They each had a poncho in their “goody bags” that helped to not dampen their spirits and they were divided into four groups of 20 and set out to see the memorials.

Betty Gilby and Pam Hermansader, front, are met at the airport by fellow FWS members, standing from left, Phyllis Audiss, Myrna Binford, Wayne King, Carol King, LeNita Hague, and Diane Jansen.
Betty Gilby and Pam Hermansader, front, are met at the airport by fellow FWS members, standing from left, Phyllis Audiss, Myrna Binford, Wayne King, Carol King, LeNita Hague, and Diane Jansen.

Betty’s daughter, Elaine Gilby, who lives in Rockville, Md., was able to join her mother in Washington. They all visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, World War II Memorial, Women in Military Service for America Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Iwo Jima Memorial, Air Force Memorial, Navy Museum and Shipyard, and the Lincoln Memorial. It was a very busy day.

The Women in Military Service for America Memorial is at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery, so the two women veterans in the group were taken there while the gentlemen went to the “Changing of the Guard” at Arlington. Brigadier General Wilma Vaught is a retired United States Air Force leader who was instrumental in the building of the memorial. Vaught was at the memorial and personally escorted them and showed them around. After the Women’s Military Memorial, the women joined the men at Arlington.

When Gilby came home after the war ended, there was no one to meet the ship or greet the veterans. This was true for most of the veterans from WWII. When they all returned home to San Diego on Sunday, Oct. 2, they were greeted by almost 1,000 people who gave them a true hero’s welcome. It was very moving with tears on both sides.

Welcoming Gilby home were FWC members LeNita Hague, Myrna Binford, Diane Jansen, Phyllis Audiss, Carol King and her husband, Wayne. Her granddaughter, Megan Gilby, and her boyfriend, Joseph, and her grandson, Tim Ciancio, and his girlfriend, Jacki, were also there to greet her. Everyone cheered, waved flags, shook hands, gave hugs, thanked them for their service and gave all the veterans a true welcome home.

Gilby was also interviewed by reporters from local news media KUSI, Fox, and CW. The interviews aired on the Sunday night news and Gilby felt like a celebrity.

“It was overwhelming,” said Gilby of the experience. “It was unbelievable that so many people were here still honoring veterans from young to old. Young soldiers and marines were also there – and children.”

At the November general meeting of the FWC, Bill Martes of the Honor Flight organization will be the guest speaker. Women in the Fallbrook area are welcome to come to the clubhouse, located at 238 W. Mission Road, Fallbrook, on Nov. 8, at 11 a.m. Contact Diane Jansen at (760) 723-3735 for further information.

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