Family reunion turns into surprise homecoming for Indiana WWII veteran

Ray Kerr, a 95-year-old World War II veteran, got a special welcome home to Indiana.

PLAINFIELD, Ind. (WTHR) - Some people say, "You can't go home again," but that's not the case for a World War II veteran who may be coming back to Indiana for the last time.

There aren't many World War II veterans left in the United States and when a 95-year-old former fighter pilot showed up to his family reunion, he was surprised to see that dozens of others were there to greet him too.

When he returned from the Pacific Theater in 1945, Ray Kerr got a welcome home along with thousands of his fellow soldiers.

Ray Kerr flew numerous missions in the Pacific Theater of World War II.
Ray Kerr flew numerous missions in the Pacific Theater of World War II.

Friday, it was all for him.

"All the brothers and sisters here I'm sure came out to support Ray and to show him that we appreciate what he has done for our country," said Steve Grinley of the Blue Knights Motorcycle Club.

Motorcycle club riders, local police and Boy Scouts escorted Ray from Terre Haute to his hometown of Brazil, thanking him for his service that occurred before most of them were even born. His nephew Bill Kingery started pulling the tribute together six days ago.

"Beyond my expectations and beyond his wildest imagination. Fascinating, just fascinating," Kingery said.

But also fitting for his uncle's service in World War II.

Ray moves by wheelchair now, but back then he was a fighter pilot, who flew dozens of missions over hostile territory, including Iwo Jima, where he supported U.S. Marines as they famously raised the flag over the island.

At 95 and fighting cancer, he came back from his home in Pennsylvania to his Indiana hometown to attend what will likely be his last family reunion.

"I was looking forward to seeing Bill and this is what happened," Kerr said.

Ray's family says they've always known him to be upbeat and it is only in recent years that they discovered that it is his close brushes with death that made him so appreciate his life.

"I just enjoy every bit of it and it's great to be alive," he said.

It's a phase he has repeated often over the years and Friday night, he had another one for all of the people who came to honor his service.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you," he said.

No, Ray. Thank you.

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