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Articles & Local History > 2009 - Whiteside Co. Honor Flight

Honor Flight 001.JPG Joyce & Donald Fortune and Dawn Fisk


Donald Fortune, 84, of Tampico, Illinois was one of the area veterans that flew on the first Whiteside County Honor Flight in November, 2009. The day started early - about 4:00 a.m. to board the Wiersema bus to the Moline airport to fly in to Washington Dulles airport. They returned to Sterling, Illinois about 10:00 p.m., but it was nearly 1:00 a.m. the next morning before his head hit the pillow.

Don entered the service when he was a senior in high school but quit after two months.  In November, 1943, he enlisted (so he could pick what he wanted to do) in Iowa, then off to Farragut Naval Training Station in Idaho for Boot Camp. After training, including 4 months of service school, he shipped out of San Francisco, CA in September, 1944 on a supply ship in the south Pacific.  While at sea in October of 1941, on their way to Okinawa, they encountered a “force 11” typhoon.  It snapped the rudder and they were lucky to get out of it alive. This wasn’t the only typhoon they encountered, but it was certainly the most damaging and frightening.

On his 21st birthday, he boarded an Army Transport and headed for home in Iowa.  The government offered him $100/month until he found work. Don found work immediately, so he never got a check from them.  He was discharged April 4, 1946.

Don met Joyce, his wife of 62 years through her sister and they married in May of 1947. They moved to Illinois from Iowa in January of 1960.  He was a welder by trade and worked in construction when he lived in Iowa and worked at International Harvester in E. Moline prior to his retirement.

Don brought some of the pictures he had taken while on his trip to Washington, showing the wreathes on pillars for each state and explaining they were set up in the order in which they joined the Union. When they visited the Washington monument, the guide pointed out the two colors of cement and asked if anyone knew why that was?  After the first 152 feet were constructed, funding and the Civil War created a delay in its completion.  Don continued with more photos until he got to the last in his pile. He hesitated and then went on to note that as over-whelming and humbling as this trip was, the one site that made it all worth his while was . . . (hesitation before he presents the last picture) – “This,” and he placed a picture of Audie Murphy’s gravestone in Arlington National Cemetery  on the table. Audie L. Murphy, most decorated American combat soldier of World War II, receiving every decoration for valor that this country had to offer plus 5 decorations presented to him by France and Belgium. However, he was also a singer/songwriter, and a fine actor, mostly westerns in the 1950’s. Don owns all of his movies!

When asked about the sack lunches and letters, Don smiled when I asked if the lunch was reminiscent of K-rations. He giggled, but added they fed them well on this trip! The letters were fun to read. They were mostly from middle school kids, but he did receive one from a 4th grader. His smile faded as he said she told of her relatives in Iraq and how horrible she would feel if something happened to them. It was sad to read.

Dawn Fisk and her husband were volunteer greeters who welcomed the service men and women in Moline. It was a fun coincidence that she happened to be working at the Dutch Diner when this interview was held. They all shared hugs at the impromptu reunion.

It is impossible to talk with any of these Veterans and not say “Thank You,” which, of course, I did. Mr. Fortune is such a humble man and said he should be thanking us. He wanted to especially thank some very special people that made this trip possible.  These people include: Bob Morrison in Davenport  who was his caretaker on the trip, Pastor Jim Jensen of the Prophetstown Advent Christian Church, Terry Gaskill in Tampico and Ron and Pat Sharp who helped with transpiration and other coordinating tasks.

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