Fewer than half-a-million of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II were alive in 2018.
99-year-old Claude Hone, of Sioux Falls, was one of the veterans on South Dakota’s very first Honor Flight to the World War II Memorial in 2009.
KELOLAND News has featured Hone, his amazing feats during wartime and his positive attitude, many times over the years.
But now the hero is in need of help. His fellow servicemen are now stepping up to this “call of duty.”
Claude Hone was a WWII Marine fighter pilot. He had the task of flying over Iwo Jima to shoot as many Japanese soldiers as possible to clear a path for the U.S. Marines on the ground.
“The Japanese hated the fly boys because we were in and out and if they ever captured the fly boys they wouldn’t let them live, they behead them,” Hone said.
Hone not only lived, he thrived.
“I’ve found in life, one of the secrets to life is laugh a lot” Hone said. That was Hone at 82.
Today at 99, Hone has suffered a fall.
“He was walking, talking, dancing and lecturing. And we were getting ready to come here for the summer from St. Paul, where my home is, and he fell and hit his head,” daughter Nancy Hone said.
Hone’s youngest daughter Nancy, who is 70-years-old. Her father is also suffering from Bell’s Palsy which has caused temporary paralysis on one side of his face.
“He was dancing just about a month ago and now he’s stuck in the chair. He’s just now getting his walking back; still needs a little help with it. But he’s talking a lot more now as well,” Corporal Marcus Lomax said.
Marine Corporal Marcus Lomax met Hone at the Marine Corp Ball last year.
“He still has that Marine mentality for his age as well. He’s still young. The fact that he was all smiles; we bonded,” Corporal Lomax said.
Now Corporal Lomax has been showing up at Hone’s house practically every day of the week, several times a day, to help Nancy with his care.
“It’s the least I can do. He helped pave the way for future generations. For a young Marine as myself, it’s honorable to help,” Corporal Lomax said.
And he’s not the only one. A number of active duty military and fellow veterans have been by Hone’s side since his fall.
“When you look specifically at the Marine Corp that Claude and Corporal Lomax are in, they have a saying, Semper Fi, short for Semper Fidelis, which means always faithful, always trustworthy. So when you call them for help, no is not an option. They are always there for each other and it’s just incredible the comradely they have. It’s not just a saying, they live it every day,” Army Veteran Rich Siegmann said.
“He’s a Marine. No Marine left behind. A lot of people will hear that, but it’s a real thing. We have a bond. I didn’t even have to hear his name. All I had to hear was Marine and still came over. That brotherhood and sisterhood is real,” Corporal Lomax said.
Army Veteran Rich Siegmann is Hone’s neighbor. He was among the first to volunteer to help.
“What he was willing to do for his country, to give it all; for me to give 30-45 minutes a day, is a no-brainer,” Siegmann said.
Siegmann is also working to get Hone Veteran’s Administration and Medicare benefits for more help to come into his home as he recovers from his fall.
“Claude has not been to the doctor in almost 24 years, so he was not in anybody’s system,” Siegmann said.
Hone was not able to carry on a conversation. But he did give us a smile and a short word or two. Our last interview with Hone was in 2015.
“I’ve escaped death about four times, so nothing bothers me anymore,” Hone said.
His daughter is confident that even though he’s nearly 100, he will escape death this time too.
“We’re planning on it,” Nancy Hone said.
Dressed in his uniform and original bomber jacket, the military members by his side want him to know that his role as a World War II hero is not forgotten.
“He has the other service members coming here to help. And he smiles at them; he tells them thank you. He knows they’re here and they know about him. He’s not forgotten,” Siegmann said.
Nancy Hone says she could use more help until her father can get more care from the VA or Medicare.
If you’d like to assist you can email Nancy at: firstname.lastname@example.org
WATCH: Claude Hone Documentary