Category Archives: World War II

November Update

Is winter ever going to come? This month has been so mild that we still have a few fall veggies hanging on. They look kinda funny with ‘frostbite’, but still taste good.

Planning for the expansion of the gardens next year has begun, since we’ll need to expand the gardens at least three times to provide the produce that Coravir’s kitchen will require. Our disabled veterans living at Coravir will be eating the healthiest vegetables possible starting next year. We’ll need as many volunteers as we can get to make this possible, so contact us if you’re interested. The rehab of Coravir’s new home is set to begin next month and, if all goes well, the home will open early Spring.

We need to thank the Warbird Heritage Foundation once more for opening their doors to our Veterans. We took a group from the James A. Lovell V.A. in North Chicago, IL to tour their facility on Monday the 5th. One of the highlights for me was when a wheelchair-bound veteran from WWII ran his hand over the wing flap of the P-51 Mustang and with a tear in his eye said he was so grateful to see “such a beautiful ol’ girl” in fantastic condition. This veteran told me how the P-51 Mustang saved his life more than once and what a joy it is now to be able to “see her again”. Sean did a fantastic job hosting the tour of the Warbirds; he really went all out for our veterans.  Thanks, Sean.

We hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season.  We’re looking forward to 2013 here on the Farm, and hope all of you are too.

John

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Filed under Monthly Updates, World War II

Freedom Farm Loses One of its Own

 

Photos of Dad in the South Pacific

Dad in WWII, Biak Island

 

On April 18th I lost my father at the age of 86. Dad was a Father, Veteran and Hero and will be truly missed by many.

Dad was an amazingly talented man; as a father his only purpose was to see that everything he did was with his family in mind. As Dad put it, “Once you have a family you sacrifice EVERYTHING for them – if I have to shovel horse—- to feed the family, I will”. Dad was a model builder by profession, but left that to make more money. He gave up the job he loved to feed the family he loved even more.

He carried on his love of models in our basement, so growing up with him as a Dad was like having your own Santa’s elf; no toy was left broken and no Halloween costume was too difficult to create.

He would try anything to be a part of his children’s lives even if it could result in bodily injury.  He was “as coordinated as a duck”, as he put it, so his knees were really sore after his first encounter with ice skates.

When WWII broke out Dad decided to enlist, but when he went to the enlistment station they told him to go home; he was too small. Having been told that, he left not hurt but angry – he wanted to serve. So a couple days later he went to another induction station and talked his way in. The only way was to be assigned to a machine shop, but it didn’t matter, he was in.

Dad was the WWII version of “Radar” – in basic they said his pack weighed more than he did.

He was shipped out to the South Pacific (he spent over a year on Biak Island) where he worked on military aircraft. The service Dad performed in the South Pacific made him proud to have done his part in defending this great land of ours. It was also there that he really developed his interest in airplanes and flying, and which later played a major role in his love of model making.

Dad was a hero to all of those who knew him and his talents. The kids in the neighborhood never had a toy stay broken, and had a surrogate Dad to help them with art projects for school that their own parents either had no clue how to do or didn’t have time. That’s the way he was. If you were a friend of ours, Dad treated you like one of his own. He was also a hero to all those parents whose children were lucky enough to be involved in many of his interests (Civil Air Patrol, Waukegan Model Rocket Club, Waukegan Tamburitzans, Lake County Model Boat Club). Dad was the man that could do everything – his mind was magical and he never had a negative thing to say about anyone. I never met anyone that didn’t like or respect him.

In reflecting on my father’s life I realized that he was about honor, truth and dedication to family, so having said that, I am changing the policy on the farm to include the families of the Veterans. Family unity is what built this place, and it will be fuel to make it grow. We are here to help you Veterans who need us, we are your family and we’re here.

Good-bye Dad. I hope I can be half the man you were.

Your Son,
John

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Filed under Ress Family, World War II

Coming Home After The War

After the war the four brothers came home with memories that would forever change their lives. They lost their mother as well as many of their childhood friends. Uncle Mike had it the worst. He suffered many sleepless nights and would eventually be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The family doctor told Grandpa that he would keep an exam room open any time Uncle Mike needed him. “Just bring him in”, is what the doc said.

That’s when Grandpa bought the farm land. Maybe he thought that if he could keep Uncle Mike busy and surrounded him with family he could somehow work through it all.

.:.

Image Credit: A cavalry weapons troop moves from the beach past splintered trees and fires caused by the heavy bombardment preceding their landing on Leyte Island in the Philippines. Creative Commons 2.0 Generic from otisarchives2 photostream.

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Filed under Balen Family, Wadsworth Farm, World War II

The Balen Brothers Go To War

World War II took four of the five Balen brothers to battles in Europe and Japan. Mike’s company took him to Leyte and Okinawa, Nick was at the Battle of the Bulge, John was in Australia and Matt was going to be sent to Normandy. However, the sudden death of their mother prevented Matt from accompanying his unit to Normandy and was allowed home for the funeral. Over the years the war took its toll. Battlefields and service in all branches took the lives of other family members and future brother-in-laws.

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Filed under Balen Family, Wadsworth Farm, World War II

The War Comes To Lake County, Illinois

When World War II broke out and the draft started to take the boys from Lake County the Balen Family was hit pretty hard. They were a large family of nine children, five boys and four girls. Four of the brothers; Mike, Nick, John and Matt were drafted to serve their country in Europe and Japan. The eldest son Steve was the only one not drafted. Maybe because he needed to stay and care for his infant daughter, or maybe because his Dad told his friend at the induction center that if he took his last son he’d be back for a not so friendly visit. Either way, somehow Steve’s draft notice never came.

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Filed under Balen Family, Wadsworth Farm, World War II