Manistee police chief serves as guardian on Honor Flight to Washington

Dave Bachman served as one of about 60 guardians on a Mid-Michigan Honor Flight that took the same number of World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. He traveled with 94-year-old Raymond Modders, of Lake City. Bachman is the chief of the Manistee City police and fire departments. (Courtesy photo)

Dave Bachman served as one of about 60 guardians on a Mid-Michigan Honor Flight that took the same number of World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. He traveled with 94-year-old Raymond Modders, of Lake City. Bachman is the chief of the Manistee City police and fire departments. (Courtesy photo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The smile on Dave Bachman’s face painted the proverbial picture that says a thousand words.

And more.

The longtime peace officer sat back in his chair, folded both hands behind his head, and smiled.

“It was a great trip, an unforgettable trip,” said the chief of the Manistee City police and fire departments. “Just seeing the emotions on those veterans faces — and sharing with them their experience — was special.”

Bachman recently served as one of about 60 guardians on a Mid-Michigan Honor Flight that took the same number of World War II veterans to Washington, D.C.

Another Manistee-area resident, Phil Adamski, also served as a guardian on the flight.

RELATED STORY

A local father and son — Ken and Lars Berentsen — reflect on Honor Flight to World War II Memorial. Find the story in this weekend’s Lifestyles section.

The one-day trip had the Greatest Generation veterans and their guardian-chaperones like Bachman visit many of the nation’s greatest monuments, including the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, both the Korean War and Vietnam War memorials, the Air Force Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and more.

For Bachman, just sharing the experience with 94-year-old Raymond Modders, of Lake City, was something that left him smiling.

“My role was to serve as a guardian for my vet, (Mr. Modders),” said Bachman. “I went to Lake City a month ago and took him out to lunch. I wanted to get acquainted with him, and make sure he was comfortable traveling with me in that role. It couldn’t have gone better. My job was to make sure he had the best experience possible. I was prepared to wait on him hand and foot to make that happen.”

After making his first visit to the various monuments and memorials, Modders said the experience was “awesome,” and more.

Though he served with the Army Air Corp, Raymond Modders was assigned to the USS Bayfield (APA-33) for the invasion of Normandy. The 94-year-old Lake City man traveled with the Mid-Michigan Honor Flight and other World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. recently. (Courtesy photo)

Though he served with the Army Air Corp, Raymond Modders was assigned to the USS Bayfield (APA-33) for the invasion of Normandy. The 94-year-old Lake City man traveled with the Mid-Michigan Honor Flight and other World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. recently. (Courtesy photo)

“They treated us so good, and so honorable,” said Modders. “The World War II Memorial was wonderful — my favorite. Oh man, it was great. It was marvelous. It was something to behold. It as something out of this world. It was awesome.”

The veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corp could hardly contain his excitement when he talked about his trip.

“Mr. Bachman was very kind and helpful,” said Modders. “He was there for me, every step of the way. Arlington Cemetery was beautiful, especially the changing of the guard. Those guards took 21 steps, stopped, clicked their heals, turned, and took 21 steps back, stopped, and clicked their heals. They did that over and over. You have to see it, to feel it.”

Watching the attack

Though he served with the Army Air Corp, Modders was assigned to the USS Bayfield (APA-33) for the invasion of Normandy. The U.S. Navy ship was an attack transport. On D-Day, the Bayfield and other transports reached their designated positions early on the morning of June 6, and released their troops to the shoreline.

Then, anchored less than a mile from the Utah Beach, the Bayfield began service as a supply and hospital ship, in addition to continuing her duties as a flagship. Those assignments kept her in harm’s way just off the Normandy coast as other transports rapidly unloaded troops and cargo, and returned to England to pick-up more troops.

The next day Modders’ ship shifted to an anchorage five miles off the beach, and made smoke that night to protect Utah anchorage from Luftwaffe attacks.

“The night before the invasion that whole area, all those beaches, were just one big bonfire,” said Modders. “All the bombing by the airplanes and shelling by the ships set the beaches on fire. We were trying to soften the beaches, for the invasion.

“That was the longest day of my life. That day, it seemed, lasted for two or three days. There was no sleep for anyone that day. We took a lot of German 88 shells.”

The German 88 was considered one of the most simple, but devastating weapons of the war. Widely used by the Germans, it was mainly an anti-tank artillery gun, but was also one that could be used for many other purposes, including shelling the invading Allied ships.

“It was an awful gun,” said Modders. “It did an awful lot of damage.”

An unforgettable trip

Bachman said as much as he enjoyed being part of the Honor Flight program, he especially enjoyed getting to know Modders, who was the oldest veteran on the flight that day.

“I learned that he was an air traffic controller in Paris for much of the war, that he was a cryptographer, and that he spent 30 days on a ship during the D-Day invasion,” said Bachman. “He was in range of the shore guns, and saw many horrible things.”

As much as their tour of the Washington monuments and memorials meant to them, both Bachman and Modders said their trip to and from the airports were also unforgettable.

“The whole trip was an emotional roller coaster for a lot of the men on the trip,” said Bachman. “They were all treated like royalty, the whole day.

“Every overpass between Ferris State University (where we left from), and the Grand Rapids Airport, had a fire truck and flags, police escorts all day, people we didn’t know were thanking the vets and telling them, ‘Welcome Home.’

“Huge crowds were clapping and shaking their hands,” said Bachman. “It was an overwhelming feeling of good will and gratitude. I didn’t anticipate sharing the emotion with them, but I did. It was a wonderful feeling being part of his day, and sharing the warmth and gratitude of our nation.”

Bachman said the day became “extremely emotional.”

“I saw a lot of tears, a lot of hugs between vets and their guardians who were mostly children and grandchildren,” said Bachman.

Modders paused for several seconds before saying what he thought about the homecoming.

“Beyond words,” he said. “Beyond words.”

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Posted by David L. Barber

David L. Barber is the retired editor of the Manistee News Advocate. He contributes columns weekly for the News Advocate. You can contact him at dlbarber1006@gmail.com.

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