Greater Peoria Honor Flight: everyone has a story

By Josh Simon

June 6, 2013 Updated Jun 6, 2013 at 9:48 PM CDT

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The inaugural Greater Peoria Honor Flight is in the books but the memories will remain for the veterans who traveled to Washington D.C. on Tuesday.

There were 81 veterans aboard the inaugural Greater Peoria Honor Flight, each with their own story. Take Nora Leman for example. She was a nurse who served in the Philippines during World War II.

"My grandfather on my dad's side, he was colonel in the Italian army, on my mother's side her father was a major in the Irish army. My father was in World War I, so in a way he told me that it was expected of me to do something rather than sit home and do nothing," said Leman. "So I went to nurses training and from there I went right into the Army."

That is where she met Ivan, her future husband.

"He was from Metamora. The last hospital that I was in, we were both assigned to the same ward," she said. "So being so close, being from Chicago. It drew us a lot closer and then after we got out of the service we got married."

Her husband passed away 19 years ago, but Leman holds on to his memory everyday and brought his picture with her on the Honor Flight and to the World War II Memorial.

"I wanted to cry. Everything is so emotional. Getting together and remembering what went on. I mean so many people died so that you and I could be here. I am not a gloom gloom person but still you come to a place like this. These people died so we can be fine," she said.

Leman's smile is infectious and she makes friends wherever she goes.

"She is one of the few women I have seen on any of these honor flights," said 17th District Representative Cheri Bustos. "First of all she was a nurse and my grandmother was a nurse. I mean look at her she is smiling, she'll be ninety years old later this year. She is still walking pretty quickly and it's like one of those people you instantly bond with."

Leman has had a chance to go on honor flights before out of Moline or Springfield but she waited for one closer to home and she says it was worth the wait.

"It was happy. It was sad. It was emotional. It was terrific. It couldn't have been nicer."

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