Giving credit where credit is due has finally arrived for a 96-year-old Oak Island veteran.
This credit meant John Zebraski, the oldest living veteran of Oak Island Elks Lodge #2769, finally had the opportunity to receive recognition for his service via a trip on the Honor Flight.
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The Honor Flight Network is a nationwide organization founded in 2005 when two private pilots began flying World War II veterans to Washington DC to view the World War II Memorial.
Born John Anthony Zebraski on February 10, 1926, in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, Zebraski attended school until eighth grade. During the Great Depression, Zebraski had to leave school to help support his family (Zebraski later earned a GED).
At the age of 17, he was drafted into the United States Army during World War II.
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The Cape Fear Area Honor Flight, 12 years after the group disbanded, relaunched the flight on Saturday, April 30 and carried Zebraski (and his guardian, daughter Jane Hamel) and other veterans to Washington, D.C. DC
Honor Flight of the Cape Fear Area honors veterans of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.
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The Elks Lodge Veterans Affairs Committee has agreed to donate $500 to the Cape Fear Area Honor Flight to cover Jane Hamel’s flight and expenses.
Zebraski wanted to do the honor flight because he wanted to see the memorials, and also believed that doing the honor flight pays tribute to fallen soldiers.
In 1945, Zebraski and the 13th Airborne Division left Fort Bragg for overseas duty in the European Theater in the Normandy region of Le Havre, France. At the end of the war, the 13th Airborne Division was inactivated. Zebraski was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg.
Zebraski was assigned to the Canal Zone, Republic of Panama as a firefighter from 1950 to 1955. In 1955 he returned to Fort Benning, Georgia, and was discharged at the rank of Staff Sgt- major, serving 12 years, 3 months and 15 days.
Standing proud, Zebraski even rose from his wheelchair when honor guards performed the changing of the guards at Arlington Cemetery.
After leaving the army in 1955, he married and settled in Thomasville, where he began raising his family. After a year, he moved his family to Fayetteville and rose through the ranks of the fire department. Zebraski retired from the Fort Bragg Fire Department in December 1985 as Deputy Fire Chief.
Zebraski’s second home was on Oak Island and after his retirement he moved there permanently.
Zebraski said it was a great opportunity to be on the honor flight and see the magnificent World War II memorial. Memorials were something he had never seen before. Remaining throughout the ceremony, Zebraski was visited by a colonel, a major, and a general.
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“The trip was emotional. I felt like I was surrounded by family. It wasn’t like going there and I would never have that chance again,” Zebraski said.