94-year-old Walter Hushak of Southington has a story to tell. Hushak always had dreams of flying high so when duty called he was eager to enlist in the Air Force. He was just 19 years old when he entered the military and it was clear his destination would be across the ocean fighting in World War II.
Walter flew a B24 Liberator Bomber during the war. He dropped bombs on the Japanese, but was eternally thankful that he never had to witness death up close.
“I had one scary instance where there was 20 minutes of turbulence over the Pacific Ocean and a life raft blew out due to the plane buffeting, however, I got control of it and kept all 14 servicemen safe,” he said.
This is just one of the anecdotes other veterans will have the privilege of hearing at the Veteran’s Coffee House event hosted monthly in Wallingford by Assisted Living Services. The gathering allows military veterans a chance to connect and reflect on their service. Of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII, Hushak is among only about a half million veterans still alive. He will share his story Tuesday, October 24th at 10:00 a.m at the Wallingford Senior Center.
After the war ended, Hushak was just 22 and not ready to walk away from his military service. He became an active member in the Army Air Corps- now known as the Air Force. His duties spanned meetings, drills and flying over 29 years. At age 58, he retired from the military as a Lieutenant Colonel. Along the way, he and his wife welcomed three children and eventually five grandchildren.
Since leaving the Air Force, Hushak has been committed to giving back to his community. He was elected to the Southington Town Council and served for four years, was Chairman of the Board of Directors for Southington Savings Bank for eight years and assisted Red Cross blood drives throughout town for six years.
Today, he is passionate about his guest speaking presentations to local organizations, and most notably to the history classes at Southington High School. “It is so rewarding being a living, breathing piece of history helping them see the value of lessons learned from the past.”
Assisted Living Services (ALS) and Assisted Living Technologies (ALT) share Hushak’s spirit of community outreach. ALS and ALT the have spent years caring for Connecticut Veterans. They saw this as a great way to enrich the lives of these heroes and show appreciation for their service.
“To Veterans everywhere simply saying thank you for your service didn’t seem quite good enough. We wanted to do more,” said Ron D’Aquila RN, co-owner of Assisted Living Services. “So we partnered up with the Wallingford Senior Center to help create and begin a “once-a-month” meeting where Veterans gather.”
Today the Veteran’s Coffee House of Wallingford averages more than 30 Veterans a month. They also enlist the help of guest speakers each month. To date they have hosted Veterans who hail from the wars of WW II, The Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Mark Halliday is the innovator of the popular Veteran’s meetings. He is the Community Liaison for ALS, in conjunction with the Wallingford Senior Center. Halliday has always had great respect and deep admiration for veterans and wanted to give them a chance to get together on a casual basis.
“These events really are a historic treasure,” said Halliday. “Each and every meeting sheds light on some new piece of history introduced by those in attendance.”
Beyond this impactful program, ALS & ALT took their commitment to Veterans one step further. In January of this year, ALS & ALT also began another very special campaign that honors Veterans. They created a fund that supports a group of Veterans attending Quinnipiac University on the G.I. bill and regularly support a special Veterans lounge at the school by providing such essential supplies as toothpaste, toothbrushes, toiletries, snacks and coffee. It’s a place where these students can connect, study and lend support to one another.
“ALS & ALT are all too familiar with the fact that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of CT Veterans today that are completely unaware of the fact that there are Veteran Benefits available to them right now, but just as important, their spouses too,” said D’Aquila.