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A longtime rural Tonica farmer is the next in a long line of World War II veterans who are about to take a first trip to Washington, D.C., and he’ll be accompanied by the mother of a soldier killed in action in a more recent war. Jack Ashley of Tonica is preparing to take an Honor Flight with Honor Flight of the Quad Cities, and said his escort will be the mother of Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Wehrly, a Galesburg unit’s soldier who was killed in Iraq by an improvised explosive device in 2005. He said the Honor Flight honorees from World War II and Korea each usually are assigned an escort to take care of them, but this time will be unusual, as loved ones of fallen soldiers will accompany and give aid to the older veterans. Ashley said he is looking forward to the expenses-paid trip, which starts with dinner and a motel stay Wednesday, a 5 a.m. flight to see the World War II Veterans Memorial in Washington and other memorials and sites, followed by a late-night reception back at the airport in Moline. He said the veterans are told to make sure someone meets them Thursday night to drive them home, because they’re guaranteed to be exhausted from the long day. Ashley volunteered for induction in September 1944 and thought he might be sent to the Battle of the Bulge, which was raging at that time in Europe. But after basic training, he served in the Philippines on patrol duty near the end of the war and contracted Scarlet Fever. After the atomic bombs were dropped and the war ended, he and fellow soldiers were assigned to search for Japanese soldiers who were stragglers, still hiding out or holding out or who didn’t realize the war was over. His unit had been training to invade Japan, and he was glad they didn’t have to do that. After the war ended, he and his unit was assigned to go ashore at Osaka as part of the Army of occupation. He said he couldn’t have imagined having to go ashore and trying to swim to land to fight after being dropped off in several feet of water and facing machine gun fire. As it was, he said most of the Japanese people he would meet during the occupation seemed to be just as glad as the soldiers that the war was over. “Most all of them spoke English and they were friendly,” Ashley recalled.
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