WASHINGTON, D.C.- A Westfield native was treated to tours and celebrations of the nation’s capital all day Oct. 5, along with more than 20 of his fellow World War II veterans as part of the Honor Flight program.
Theodore ‘Ted” Carellas, 93, is a veteran of the Pacific Theater of World War II as a member of the United States Coast Guard. Carellas was stationed on a convoy of cargo ships also manned by members of the Navy.
At 17-and-a-half years old, Carellas and a friend of his had to lie about their ages in order to enlist at all. He said that they chose the Coast Guard because it was the only branch accepting recruits at the time they were trying to enlist. When it worked, Carellas was sent to the Pacific to be on one of the cargo ships.
“Our job was to go in and land at certain islands to drop off supplies after the islands were secured by U.S. forces,” said Ted.
His military career was cut short, however, as the convoy was attacked by a squadron of Japanese planes. During the chaos, Carellas fell overboard and was wounded. He was sent from field hospital to field hospital before returning home to Springfield at the conclusion of the war.
On Saturday, Carellas was treated to the fanfare and celebrations he missed by returning home early.
The Connecticut Chapter of the Honor Flight Program flew him to Washington D.C. with 23 other World War II veterans. At 6 a.m., the veterans and their guardians for the day arrived at Bradley International Airport where at least a hundred spectators were waiting and cheering them on. Ted’s guardian was his grandson, also named Ted Carellas.
“I didn’t expect it, I thought it would just be a couple handshakes and some ‘thank you for your services and that’s it’,” said Carella, “When we got down to the airport there must have been 100 people cheering us.”
The group made a layover in Baltimore before heading to the capital. While there, the group toured notable memorials for soldiers and WWII veterans. They visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery,and the Iwo Jima Monument, among others. Carellas’s son, Peter Carellas, said that a group of people already viewing the WWII monument broke out in a round of applause at the sight of a group of veterans of that same war coming to view the memorial.
The veterans were treated to lunch, dinner, and treats throughout the day as they toured the capital and were the recipients of some of the fanfare they may have missed due to the circumstances of their coming home. Carellas said he was extremely impressed with the entire program.
“We were treated royally,” said Carellas, “The group [Honor Flight] should really be complimented on such an excellent program.”
After a long day, the group returned to Bradley Airport at 10:30 p.m., and Carellas was brought back to Westfield.
Matt Sparks, the organizer for Honor Flight Connecticut, said that he was impressed by the veterans themselves, and said that Carellas, at 93-years-old, is still “sharp as a tack.”
“Our mission is to take down as many veterans as we can to see the memorials in their honor,” said Sparks, “We want to show them how much they are appreciated, honored, and revered by the younger generations.”
While the recent focus for Honor Flight has been WWII and Korean War veterans because they are the oldest veterans of major American wars, they have begun looking at and taking down some Vietnam War veterans as well.