WWII veteran from Ionia gets honorary flight

IONIA, Mich.—A World War II veteran who put his life on the line searching for downed aircrafts in enemy territory was honored in Ionia today.

C/CPL Joe Benak in his CAP service uniform in 1943. He is wearing his Mission Observer wings above his left pocket. Courtesy photo.

C/CPL Joe Benak in his CAP service uniform in 1943. He is wearing his Mission Observer wings above his left pocket. Courtesy photo.

Joe Benak, 91, served as a staff sergeant in the army and was a mission observer for the Civil air patrol.

“I have a little anxiety of course," says Benak, reflecting on the 70 years since flying in the war. “Well, I think it’s going to be wonderful.”

During the war, he was a bazooka gunner in the invasion of Guam. He also flew with the army air squadron - Civil Air Patrol - in 1943 and 1944.

The pilot flying Benak says he's honored to be a part of this special moment.

“I am very happy to be able to do this,” says pilot Bob Heine. “Both my father and father-in-law were World War II veterans."

Last year, Benak received a congressional gold medal recognizing his service in the air during WWII.

“The Civil Air Patrol has been around for 75 years,” says Major Shawna Hoekstra with the Civil Air Patrol. “We are trying to locate all of our earliest members who served during World War II.”

C/CPL Joe Benak at a CAP base standing in front of a CAP aircraft. Courtesy photo.

C/CPL Joe Benak at a CAP base standing in front of a CAP aircraft. Courtesy photo.

While up in the sky, Benak even got the chance to take the controls and do some flying himself.

“Well, it seemed to be much simpler than the stick mechanisms,” says Benak.

Benak says he's thankful to everyone who helped make his honor flight possible.

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