Ignacio Reaches New Heights with His First Flight
Through his service in the United States Army, World War II Veteran Ignacio traveled to many places and experienced many things—both challenging and extraordinary.
When he was drafted at age 18, Ignacio left his small hometown in New Mexico and took a train across the country to complete basic training.
In 1944, Ignacio set sail on the Queen Mary to fight in World War II. Before the war, the Queen Mary was a massive, luxury ocean liner. But, because of her speed and size, the iconic ship found a new role in transporting thousands of troops across the ocean to battle.
Ignacio landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, in October of 1944, only a few months after what is now famously known as D-Day, the Allied invasion of Europe. For a young man born and raised under the hot New Mexico sun, the foggy beaches of Normandy were like an entirely new world.
And this world would only become more challenging as Ignacio’s artillery unit made its way across France, Belgium, and Germany. That year, he and his companions faced a bitterly cold winter unlike anything he could have imagined. And in December of 1944, Ignacio was among the brave men who fought in the historic Battle of the Bulge.
“I was only 18 years old when I was at the battlefront with General Pat,” he said.
Looking back, Ignacio remembered how he couldn’t take his helmet off for nearly 45 days straight because the enemy gunfire was so constant and the battle so severe.
Ignacio was in Munich, Germany when the war ended in 1945. Having survived the winter and countless attacks, he was finally discharged and began his long journey home by boarding a ship back to the United States. After landing on the east coast, he spent a few years with his sister in Detroit, Michigan to recover and process his difficult experiences in the war.
Eventually, Ignacio began his journey back West by train. You can imagine how glad he was to see the Rocky Mountains again for the first time! Ignacio settled in Denver, Colorado, where he got married and raised a family. Ignacio worked for a lumber yard in Denver to support his family until he retired.
There’s one detail in this story that you might have overlooked.
Throughout his entire journey in the U.S. Army, even as he traveled from the United States to Europe and back, Ignacio never once stepped foot on an airplane.
This was a fact that Ignacio’s friend Mike simply could not accept! Mike, a Vietnam Veteran, met Ignacio while volunteering with Meals on Wheels in Denver, CO. Over the last three years, Mike has been delivering lunch to Ignacio every Wednesday. And each week, Mike has learned more about Ignacio’s incredible story and experience in the Army.
“Ignacio has such a good attitude. He is cheerful and friendly.” Mike said. “He jokes with me and smiles; he isn’t a bitter old man and doesn’t regret his service. I think he is very proud of his service and wears his WW2 hat around when he goes out.”
Mike wanted nothing more than to honor Ignacio. He reached out to Wish of a Lifetime for help, and we knew there was a perfect way to commemorate Ignacio’s service: another journey, but this time, a trip through the sky!
At age 95, Ignacio boarded an airplane for the first time, accompanied by Mike.
And this wasn’t like the Boeing 737 aircraft most people travel in these days. Ignacio’s first flight was on a historic B-24 aircraft—just like the planes he remembered seeing fly above him during the war.
The companions took off from Broomfield, CO, and soared over the beautiful foothills of Golden, seeing their home state from an entirely new perspective.
And even though it was his first time in the air, Ignacio was a natural when it came to flying. He enjoyed moving around the plane, learning about the mechanics, and catching all the sights.
“It was good, I enjoyed it!” he said. “My favorite part was looking down where we were at the waist gun…I was not afraid.”
The flight was a unique experience for both Ignacio and Mike. “I have been on many flights, but never a B-24,” Mike exclaimed. “I am glad I was there with him during the wish; he really enjoyed it.”
As Ignacio looked down at his beloved country below him, he expressed that he felt his service was honored through this wish.
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