By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Northborough – A memorably full day of activities began April 17 at 4:30 a.m. for World War II veteran Bob Rochette. He was honored with a send-off at Whitney Place Assisted Living Residences at Northborough before an Honor Flight New England one-day trip to Washington, D.C.
Rochette was greeted and escorted to a stretch limousine by College of the Holy Cross ROTC cadets. Accompanied by Ed Murphy, executive director of the Beaumont/Whitney Place at Northborough campus, Rochette was transported to the state police barracks at Logan Airport in Boston. There, he met comrades and boarded a charter flight.
Now age 94, Rochette served in the Marine Corps from 1942 to 1945. He completed his service as staff sergeant in the Marine Scout-Bomber Squadron 341, also known as the “Torrid Turtles.” Assigned in the South Pacific, his job responsibilities included repairing aircrafts, and providing plans to pilots with maps and photos for their missions.
During his trip to the nation’s capital, Rochette and his comrades visited the WWII Memorial and the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery. Stops were also made at other memorials commemorating specific wars and military branches. It was Rochette’s first time visiting the WWII Memorial, which was completed in 2004.
According to its website, “The WWII Memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home.”
After the war, Rochette worked 20 years in machine shop tooling and design. He and a business partner were instrumental in the expansion of Ski Ward Ski Area in Shrewsbury, which they operated for many years. He and his wife, Grace, moved and resided on Cape Cod for 20 years, 10 of which they owned a bed and breakfast in Cummaquid. Returning to the area, they moved into a 200-year-old house in Boylston that Rochette restored. He’s been a Whitney Place resident since 2004.
This trip to Washington marked the 41st for Honor Flight New England. Since its first flight in June 2009, trips have been made by over 1,350 WWII or terminally ill veterans. They included 34 prisoners of war, 53 women, 20 sets of brothers, and seven husband and wife couples. Each veteran is transported roundtrip free of charge.
The New England chapter of the Honor Flight Network had previously flown only WWII and terminally ill veterans. Applications from Korean War veterans are accepted and kept on file. This flight was the first time that the New England chapter of the Honor Flight Network included a Korean War veteran.
According to Joe Byron, founder of Honor Flight New England, “It’s highly likely that the rest of our flights will include Korean War veterans, but our priority is still our most senior veterans. We want to get as many WWII veterans as we possibly can to see their memorial.”
WWII veterans treated to an Honor Flight New England trip have ranged in age from 83 to 101. Their full one-day trip is usually about 15 hours from the Logan Airport takeoff to returning. The nonprofit organization transports veterans at no charge through donations.
For more information about Honor Flight New England, visit honorflightnewengland.org and on Facebook; call 603-518-5368 or toll free 877-WW2-VETS (877-992-8387). Tax-deductible donations can be made online or mailed to P.O. Box 16287, Hooksett, NH 03106.
Photos/Ed Karvoski Jr.