With Veterans Day quickly approaching, men and women across the country will soon pause in reflection of their military careers while also honoring the men and women who continue to serve today. For veterans such as George Leyva and David George, residents of Emerald Court (a Kisco Senior Living community) who served in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, Veterans Day is an annual opportunity to look back on their respective careers and remember sacrifices made while serving our country.
“I’ll never forget my service and what I witnessed,” said Leyva. “As an aircraft mechanic, I saw plenty of combat, and each one of my memories is still so vivid. While serving in Europe I was part of the D-Day invasion, flying with my crew to our target: a German airbase in France. I’ll never forget the feeling of awe I had looking out to see planes in every direction for miles as we flew to our assigned targets. The battle that day was unlike anything I had ever seen, and it was difficult to watch as nearby planes went down. It’s an honor to have been a part of such a pivotal day in the history of the war. Looking back, I’m incredibly proud of the opportunity to serve my country. While in the military, you become very conscious of how wonderful our country is, mostly because you understand the cost of freedom. Veterans Day is a special time to honor those who served and continue to do so, and I hope that by sharing my involvement in the war our sacrifices are never forgotten.”
Leyva was drafted into the Air Force in January of 1943 and trained as an aircraft mechanic. Not long after finishing his training, he joined up with a group that had volunteered for combat missions, and he soon found himself working as a mechanic and gunner aboard a B-17. From May to October of 1944, he saw more than his fair share of combat, participating in 32 missions, including the D-Day invasion. After completing his missions, Leyva and his crew returned to U.S. soil where they trained new flight crews until the end of the war. Throughout his life he remained close with his crew, keeping in touch and sharing life’s adventures with one another. For their service, Leyva and his crew each received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. Additionally, a few years ago Leyva also received the Legion of Honor from the French Government for his actions during the war. Today, as the only living member of his crew, Leyva believes in the importance of sharing not only his story, but those of his crew to ensure their sacrifices are never forgotten either.
Like Leyva, George, often reflects on the importance of his early military service and how it would remain a lifetime calling. His service began with his enlistment in the Marine Corps shortly after finishing high school and served for three years, finding himself stationed in Japan and Korea during the Korean War. After leaving the USMC, George finished college and accepted a commission in the U.S. Air Force, where he served for another 18 years. During his service in the Air Force, George was stationed in several states, including California, Florida, Ohio, and Texas, and he saw combat during the Vietnam War as an avionics maintenance officer. He received a Bronze Star for Valor and the Meritorious Service Medal. His other tours of duty included Germany, England and Spain. Upon retiring from the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel, he joined the defense industry where he worked for General Dynamics and the RAND Corporation. According to George, his life’s work was dedicated to ensuring the safety of this nation.
“I was always interested in serving my country, and I knew there were several different ways I could do so,” said George. “Whether on active duty in a service branch or working in the defense industry, I did so with the objective to keep our country both strong and well defended. Whatever the job, no matter how large or small, it could make a difference. As Veterans Day approaches, my heart and mind are with those who continue to serve our nation, in all capacities, focusing on their safety and well-being. It is the least we can do to show our appreciation for what they do every day to keep America safe.”
Both men, along with 68 of their veteran neighbors or neighbors with spouses who served during the military are recognized for their service as part of Emerald Court’s Veterans Wall. The wall is the community’s way of ensuring the stories and bravery of those who served are shared with everyone who visits the community. The wall was the first to be displayed across the Kisco organization and inspired 19 of Emerald Court’s sister communities to honor their veteran residents in a similar way. The Veterans Wall will be on display during Emerald Court’s Veterans Day celebrations on Sunday, November 11 during the community’s BBQ lunch and on Monday, November 12 at 10:00 a.m. when the community gathers to celebrate the country’s veterans, with a ceremony recognizing those in attendance and all branches of the military. Pins will be provided for veterans in attendance and flowers will be given to surviving spouses. During the ceremony, veterans and surviving spouses will also share stories about how military service influenced their lives.
“At Emerald Court, we’re privileged to have a number of men and women who served our country and now call our community home,” said Carole Bush, executive director of Emerald Court. “Their unique stories and dedication to our nation is a reminder of the importance of paying tribute to those who served and continue to do so. We’re honored to have individuals like George Leyva and David George who inspire us as they share their stories and remind us of the sacrifices for our freedom.”