Butler County Times Gazette
  • Honor Flight provides unique experience for local veteran

  • Army veteran John Novak of Augusta enjoyed a recent Kansas Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
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  • Army veteran John Novak of Augusta enjoyed a recent Kansas Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
    At 95, Novak was impressed with the experience.
    “It was something different,” he said. “Robert Dole was there meeting all of us. It was wonderful. I was able to see things I’ve never seen before.”
    Accompanying him on the trip as a guardian was his daughter, Ronda, who is a Navy veteran. The trip was enjoyable for her as well, but her focus was on her dad.
    She shared, “It was very special for him. I’m so glad that he was able to go.”
    Novak got close to D.C. when he was a young soldier based at Fort Belvoir, Va., but there was no time for visiting the nation’s capital and sightseeing.
    Before being drafted into the Army during WWII, Novak worked hard in the coal mines of Crawford, County, Kan., and later in an ammunition plant near Parsons.
    “My dad passed away when I was young and I was helping take care of my mother when I was drafted and went into the Army.”
    He was in the Army for three years, spending 2 1/2 overseas. He first went to the Aleutian Islands, which had been occupied by Japanese forces. The next assignment was Hawaii, where he was supposed to enjoy some down time, but that didn’t happen, as they were sent to the Marshall Islands.
    “Everywhere we went, we built a hospital. Sometimes we built other things, too, but we always left a hospital,” he explained.
    After the Marshall Islands, they moved on to the Philippines, where they saw a lot of action in addition to building roads and a hospital.
    “There were so many air raids,” he said. “Once there were 40 in a 48-hour period. That time we spent too much time in the ‘hole.’ We tried sleeping there, but we didn’t get much sleep.”
    Next they went to Okinawa, where the same scenario unfolded.
    “We were the combat engineers. We were always right behind the infantry,” he continued. “When the war ended, we were off to Korea to see the Japanese rounded up and sent home.”
    After John returned home, the sister of a war buddy introduced him to Barbara, a young lady from Augusta, who would eventually become his wife.
    “I had a brother-in-law building houses in Augusta, so that’s how we ended up living here,” he said. “I’ve probably built over 100 houses. I built the Antrim Lumber Yard in Augusta, and the lumber yard and grocery store in Douglass.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Novak roofed his own house at the age of 75 and worked until he was 84. He still stays active.
    “I just piddle around these days,” he said. “I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I stay busy. I don’t let a lot of things bother me.”
    He is proud of his three children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
    When he and the other Honor Flight veterans returned home to Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport they received a huge heroes’ welcome, but Novak isn’t about fanfare or being in the spotlight. Just like others of his generation he said, “Whatever needed to be done - we just did it.”
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