Veteran dies just days after his Honor Flight

Warren Perney
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The Honor Flight program flies World War II veterans to Washington, DC to see the memorial dedicated to them before they die.  The importance of that mission was underscored again Sunday.

World War II veteran, 92-year-old Warren Perney, died last week, just days after he took part in an Honor Flight.

It is hard to find a way to say 'thank you' to the world's greatest generation.  The Indianapolis Honor Flight may be as good a way as any.   

"I saw the real thing, but I haven't seen the memorial and I would like to," Perney said during a live interview on WTHR Sunrise before he boarded his Honor Flight one week ago. 

As I sat with his widow, Jean, this Sunday, I said "...and the timing of it."  She responded.  "The timing was amazing.  Amazing."

It truly was - because he died five days later.   

"That was something he wanted to do, and he did it," she said. "Very important."  When asked in what way - closure?  Jean responded, "Yes it was, right."  

A devout Christian, Warren Perney was a conscientious objector during WWII.  So he was assigned to the only place where he could save lives instead of take them.  So there he was, serving as a medic, on Omaha Beach.   

Many of the men he served alongside all those years ago were at his side Sunday at Feeney Hornak Funeral Home.  Men like 91-year-old Don Blair.

"The first day on Omaha Beach, I think, was the worst because the big push was on," Blair said.

And 91-year-old Jouett Faulkner added, "What made you feel bad, you'd be working on a man here and there would be four or five hollering 'medic' and you couldn't get to them."

"I know one thing for sure," said 98-year-old Marshall Horn, "there were no atheists there.  There was a lot of praying done." 

Warren's son, Dave, walked us up to a small cluster of medals on the table next to his dad's casket.

"These are the medals dad had in his drawer," he said.

The medals he never told his son about until his later years, including the Bronze Star he earned for saving a life on Omaha Beach on D-Day. 

The Bronze Star was on display Sunday at his viewing, along with the Sagamore of the Wabash he received from Governor Evan Bayh in 1990 for starting the Indianapolis Chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

Perney's daughter, Diane Perney, told me her dad was "very humble." She was "proud to call him dad."

Son Dave observed, "He was wired to serve." 

After 65 years of marriage, two children and four grandchildren, he had only one mission left in this life.  To board that Honor Flight.

Johnny Cimasko, who works with the Indianapolis Honor Flight heard, heard Jean say what that flight meant to him.  In fact, she said he was talking to her about it the night before he died.

"It means the world to me that Mr. Perney got to go to Washington with us five days before he passed away, to see the memorial that he earned.  He earned it, along with his comrades," Cimasko summarized.

And fortunately, Warren Perney lived to see it.

The funeral for Warren Perney will be <Monday at 1 p.m. at Feeney-Hornak Keystone Mortuary of Indianapolis.