29
NOV
2014

A Family of Service

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LISTEN to this edition of Hometown Heroes
88-year-old Bill Schrader of Prescott, AZ appears on episode #343 of Hometown Heroes, debuting November 29, 2014. Schrader, a native of Los Angeles, CA served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, flying eight missions as a B-24 nose gunner with the 5th Bomb Group, 23rd Bomb Squadron.

Bill Schrader as a young B-24 nose gunner.

Bill Schrader as a young B-24 nose gunner.

Prescott, Arizona bills itself as “Everybody’s Hometown,” so it’s about time that Hometown Heroes made its way to this charming city of about 40,000, which is also home to the headquarters of Honor Flight Arizona. Part of the nationwide Honor Flight Network, the Arizona hub has taken over 1,100 World War II veterans, free of charge, to see their memorial in Washington D.C. That figure represents 39 separate flights since Honor Flight Arizona was founded in 2008, but the woman who founded it would have never been born if Bill Schrader hadn’t made it home from World War II.

Bill Schrader with his daughter, Susan Howe.

Bill Schrader with his daughter, Susan Howe.

Bill can count four children, seven grandchildren, and twelve great-grandchildren among that number, and when it comes to the launch of Honor Flight Arizona, it was the military service of two of his grandsons that helped provide the spark. “I think it first came from having sons who went to war,” remembers Bill’s daughter Susan Howe of her decision to start an Honor Flight hub from scratch six years ago. “From that grew an appreciation for those who go to war.”

Bill Schrader's "office" was the nose turret of a B-24.

Bill Shrader’s “office” was the nose turret of a B-24.

Listen to Hometown Heroes to hear more of why and how Susan got the ball rolling with Honor Flight Arizona, and what continues to drive her today. You’ll also hear how she feels about her father, and you’ll hear Bill remember his missions, the wild weather they encountered, and the unique souvenir he brought home with him. Here’s a hint: he bought it in the Philippines, it had a long tail, a healthy appetite for bananas and undeveloped film, and went by the name of Mary.

Bill has marked deceased members of his crew with a gold cross.

Bill has marked deceased members of his crew with a gold cross.

Bill considers himself fortunate to have flown all his missions with the same crew with which he had trained at Gowen Army Air Force Base in Boise, ID. The crew held a reunion 50 years after World War II, and Bill has kept track of the surviving members. You’ll hear him remember the highs and lows of what he considers a fairly uneventful time in the military. He had entered the Army Air Corps with dreams of becoming a pilot, and a post-war opportunity with the Navy could have given wings to those dreams. Listen to Hometown Heroes to hear Bill explain why he’s thankful in retrospect that he didn’t jump at that chance.

Bill's squadron around and on top of a B-24 on V-J Day.

Bill’s squadron around and on top of a B-24 on V-J Day.


Taking Bill to the National World War II Memorial cemented in Susan’s mind that all World War II veterans deserve that opportunity. She has no plans of slowing down in her efforts to honor our veterans and share their stories, thinking as much about younger generations as for the veterans themselves. “These following generations have to know what difficulty is, what sacrifice looks like,” she says. “Their idea of a sacrifice in today’s generation is going without a Starbucks cup of coffee.” That will change if they spend a little time talking to Susan or her father.
Paul Loeffler

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