WASHINGTON, DC - A retired Northwoods doctor from Eagle River flew to Washington, DC last week. Dr. Lewis Jacobson was one of 27 World War II veterans from northcentral Wisconsin participating in the 19th Never Forgotten Honor Flight. Nearly seventy years ago, he came home from Europe. He was a young, Jewish, American soldier who spent a year and half fighting Hitler's war machine.
"I served from July of 1943 to early January of 1946, a total of about two and a half years, and 18 months was with service overseas in Europe: England, France, and Germany," Jacobson explained.
He was one of approximately 500,000 Jewish people who served in the American armed forces during World War II.
"I felt very strongly about it. It was pure brutality. Absolutely unheard of in those days," he recalled.
However, like many of the veterans on this month's Never Forgotten Honor Flight, Jacobson didn't like to make a big deal of his service - especially the fact that he could have been in even graver danger had he been captured.
"I really didn't think about it. I had a chore to carry out as an infantry rifleman and that was it," he said.
Dr. Jacobson carried out his chore, and came home. Others weren't as lucky.
"It brings back the memory of your comrades with whom you served, and knowing they didn't make it," he said, looking out over the World War II memorial.
Dr. Jacobson made it, and you could say he's made the most of his life. He went to Georgetown University on the G.I. bill. He then went to Chicago Medical School, and then returned to Washington, DC for his residency. He eventually made his way to Eagle River and spent most of his 54-year medical career serving the Eagle River community.
"I'm just starting to hear the stories of all the ways he's served over 50, 60 years or so. He's done so much, so service extended beyond military service, and serving the country, and serving the great community as well," said Alex Jacobson, Dr. Jacobson's son and Honor Flight guardian.
Dr. Jacobson's other son, Dr. Bob Jacobson, flew in from Seattle to surprise his father at the World War II Memorial.
"I think, even more so since my son's in the Army now, to just experience a little bit more of what it was like back then for him and just being with him, it means as much to me as it probably does to him," Dr. Bob Jacobson said.
His son, Adam, serves in the same infantry division in which Dr. Jacobson served during World War II. Adam Jacobson initially got his leave approved to surprise his grandfather at the World War II Memorial. However, last minute, duty called and he served.
Dr. Jacobson said he appreciated all the "thank yous" and cheers he got from strangers throughout the day. He said there wasn't much celebration when the war ended.
"The platoon sergeant called us into a room one early morning at 2 a.m. and said, 'The war is over.' And we all looked at one another," Dr. Jacobson said. "There was no elation. No expression of how wonderful it's going to be to get home again. They just made a few acknowledgements and we all went back to bed."
Jacobson also says there wasn't much celebration when he returned home nearly seventy years ago, but the welcome home from an icon was enough.
"I saw lady liberty with her right hand extended, welcoming [me] home, I was full of goose pimples," Dr. Jacobson explained.
Nearly seventy years later, the goose pimples likely came back when he finally got his welcome home celebration from a crowd of 1,000 at Central Wisconsin Airport.
Never Forgotten Honor Flight Website
|Story By: Lauren Stephenson