It is 2 a.m., Saturday April 13, 2016. Italo Americo Bove, or “Bob” to his friends, rises out of bed. He has a 4a.m. appointment with 100 other Veterans. On this morning, forty WWII veterans and sixty-one Korean War veterans will gather at Midway Airport in Chicago to board Southwest Airlines, courtesy of Honor Flight Chicago. Honor Flight Chicago was founded in February of 2008 to recognize Chicagoland’s World War II and Korean War veterans by flying them, all-expense-paid to Washington DC for a day of honor, remembrance and celebration. To date, 6355 Chicago area veterans have made this flight.
Italo began preparing for this honor flight on March 12, 1953, when he enlisted in the United States Army. He served in the Korean War until his discharge in 1955. Italo served in the infantry. In 1960, Italo joined with his fellow Italian American War Veterans in the Filippo Mazzei Post 1 and rose to serve as State Commander.
On this date, Italo and fellow Italian American War Veteran Filippo Mazzei Post 1 member, Frank Cale meet on the concourse of Midway Airport. Each veteran is teamed up with volunteer helpers, some registered nurses from Great Lakes Naval Station like Martha Rodriquez. Many of the veterans are in wheelchairs. They are all greeted by several hundred well wishers as they enter the airport. A “McGuire Sisters” tribute group sing songs from back in these veterans youth. Many vets get up and dance. The veterans board the 69th Honor Flight Chicago, and the first to include the veterans of the Korean War. They spend a wonderful day touring the sights of Washington, D.C., especially their moving visits to the war memorials. At around 10:00 p.m., the Honor Flight returns to Chicago and the plane is greeted by a Fire Truck water hose salute. As Italo and the other veterans leave the plane, a crowd of over 2500 people are gathered to meet them. The vets get “Mail Call” as they return, Italo being given over 100 pieces of mail from his friends and family.
Italo is asked if he would serve his country again, and his response, “If called, I would gladly serve my country again, any way I can. I can still peel potatoes!”
— Mark DiSanto, Commander, Italian American War Veterans Post 1