Tuesday, December 10, 2013

KCK World War II veteran on Honor Flight to Washington


KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Christmas this year came early for one of Sunflower Hills’ most popular volunteers.

A volunteer bringing out golf carts at Sunflower Hills for the last 26 years, 87-year-old Gerry Ruble of Kansas City, Kan., spent a memorable and sometimes tearful Veterans Day in Washington, D.C. Nov. 11.

A Navy veteran of World War II, Ruble was one of 25 veterans from Kansas City flown to Washington on an Honor Flight of the nation capital’s most famous monuments.

“Jerry Brotherson and George Todd, who I knew from the golf course, had both gone on the trip and spoke really high of it so I signed up about a year ago,” says Ruble. “It’s all done by donations so they stopped it for awhile but then started up again and I got a call about a month ahead of time.”

As it turned out, it was better than expected.

“When we got off the plane at Reagan Airport, there was a big crowd of people lined up on both sides of the ramp to meet us, shake our hands and thank us – people of all ages, all the way from Boy Scouts to military personnel. That was the first time I teared up, it really made us feel like we were something.”

About half of the 25 veterans were accompanied by guardians or caretakers but every vet had a personal ‘guardian’ while in Washington including about eight or nine vets in wheel chairs. “My guardian, Darlene Christianson, did an excellent job caring for an old man,” said Ruble.

Provided an official escort, the veterans were bussed to their primary destination, the World War II monument, and then later to the Vietnam, Korean and Air Force monuments, Lincoln Memorial and Iwo Jima Monument.

“The Washington Monument was still under repair; they took the scaffolding down a couple of days after we were there,” said Ruble.

“After the monuments we went to Arlington Cemetery for the Changing of the Guard and that’s the second time I teared up when they played taps.”

He also found out how important he was.

“I’m a pipe smoker and I was wondering if I was going to have a chance to smoke my pipe so I asked and was told, ‘You can do anything you want, just don’t take your clothes off and streak,’ ”

The vets also got a bus tour of the U.S. Capital, White House and Pentagon before returning to the airport for their flight home. “When we got back to the airport, there was a group from USO who danced with the veterans and played music from our era like Glenn Miller while we ate our box lunches.,” said Ruble.

The vets, who had assembled at KCI at 4 a.m. for a 6 a.m. flight, arrived back in Kansas City about 10 p.m. to be greeted yet by another big crowd awaiting their arrival.

“I’m sure there were a bunch of old men on a high for several days,” said Ruble. “It was all very, very memorable and enjoyable. I was so happy I had the opportunity to go.”

Ruble enlisted in the Navy immediately after graduating from Wyandotte High School in 1944. After boot camp in Farragut, Idaho, he went through quartermaster school and then was shipped to the Philippines to begin active duty on the destroyer DeHaven.

“We were part of the 3rd Fleet escorting carriers and keeping the Japanese Zeroes from getting to the carriers.”

He stayed on the DeHaven through the end of the war in 1945 and an additional year on the ship in the Pacific around Japan, China and Korea until he was 21. Married nearly 65 years, Ruble and his wife, Harriette, have two sons, Pat and Mike.

Most of his life has been spent in advertising sales starting with the Kansas City Kansan as a copy boy in high school and then in advertising. For many years he worked for the Katz Agency selling national advertising before retiring in 1987.

That’s also when he started at Sunflower Hills. “I was always in a group that played early in the morning and after before I’d play, I’d help Don Kent bring up the carts,” said Ruble, “The next thing I knew I was doing it by myself.”

“Everyone likes Gerry,” says head professional Jeff Johnson. “He’s always nice to people and very dedicated. On weekends we have to be out here about 5 a.m. and he’s always ahead of time – and willing to work even when he’s not scheduled.”