Joe Slavik will be one of the oldest Vets to participate in Honor Flight.
Joseph Slavik of La Grange Park missed his chance to go on Honor Flight a few years ago due to health reasons. On August 25th, 2016 Joe will partake in an Honor Flight trip as one of the oldest World War II Vets to ever go on the trip at 103 years old. The Veterans Network Committee of Northern Illinois is the host of this 3 day trip. The trip will feature 3 full days of travel, social activities, dinners, camaraderie, and a tour of the monuments and memorials in Washington DC.
Joseph Slavik will join 43 other vets on the Veterans Network Committee (VNC) 3 day trip. Joe was a medic in World War II and may have saved countless lives. Joe served under General Patton was part of the invading force for Normandy, and was involved in the Battle of the Bulge. He did tours of duty in Italy, Germany, France and Belgium. Joseph Martin Slavik was born in Chicago IL on December 5th 1912 to Marie and John Slavik. He was the 5th child of a total of 14 children.
At age 12 he started working part time as a Milk truck driver while still attending school to help with the family finances. However, at the age of 16 his father died and he had to take on more of the financial strains Joe then dropped out of school and began working full time as a Special Delivery Boy for the United States Postal Service.
Joe met the love of his life, a neighbor girl named Irene Hladik at age 25. They married 2 years later in Chicago then had a daughter named her Judith in 1942. With his only 2 living brothers already serving in the War Joe’s mother was embarrassed that she had a son that was not enlisted, so Joe had his sister Kate give his name to the draft office in 1943. Joe had his pilot license along with 2200 flying hours. He was certain he would be put in a plane.
On February 9th 1944 Joe set sail with General Patton’s third army landing in Normandy. He was given a rifle and put on the front lines. After much fighting in Europe one day he was on a truck, fell off, injured his spine and needed surgery. During his recovery the doctor taking care of him became fond of him and asked him if he’d like to join him and become a medic. Joe accepted. As a medic he had many tasks of trying to help out where he could however he says to him the worst part was giving fellow soldiers their last cigarettes and comforting them in their passing. With much traveling that they would do by foot Joe recalls the sores he would get on his feet and the lack of food. He often felt sick from eating spoiled food that he would find.
Joe also recalls the Battle of the Bulge. He recalls three buildings in a row. General Patton told his men to take cover in these buildings, and Joe chose the middle building to take cover. He stayed up all night while the shelling fell — praying the rosary. The building on the left went down along with the building on the right. His building still stood. He had come face to face with death from the enemy many times, but always seemed to find a way to escape. He gives all credit to his faith.
He would enter concentration camps in Germany to rescue prisoners. That is a sad memory he also recalls.
On April 28, 1946 Joe returned home to his wife and daughter. Got a job with Chicago Transit Authority where he worked until 1976. Irene and Joe had two more daughters and stayed married until Irene’s death in 1998. Joe never dated again.
Between 1976 he held many different jobs till his favorite being a hot Walker at Arlington race track he kept this job till finally throwing in the towel when he lost his driver’s license at the age of 94.
Joe has 14 grandchildren, many of which he had a large part in raising, and 18 great grandchildren. At the age of 103 years old he now resides in Lagrange Park IL with his middle daughter Maribeth and his granddaughter also named Maribeth who care for him.
The Veterans Network Committee VNC is an official Honor Flight Hub. “The unique thing about our trip,” said President Randy Granath a Vietnam Vet, “Is that we take our time. We don’t rush the vets. The first day we travel and do one or two memorials, have a nice dinner and socialize. We have fun and the vets get younger on the trip. Each day seems like a party. The second day we visit more memorials followed by a nice dinner. The Vets get to know each other and family members generally find more out about their loved one than they knew before. Everything is followed by what we hope will be a HUGE turnout for the Welcome Home Party”
This year the VNC 3-Day Honor Flight Welcome Home party is at Stades Farm in McHenry on August 27th. EVERYONE is invited. There will be live bands, food and drink. Missy’s Veterans of Valor Picnic 10 am – 6 pm will be held at the same time and the Honor Flight busses should arrive between 1pm and 2pm. Lawn chairs are advised as the turnout for an Honor Flight Welcome Home Party can be quite large. Last year’s Honor Flight Welcome home drew nearly 1000 people.
Stades Farm is located at 3709 Miller Road McHenry IL.
The Veterans Network Committee of Northern IL is a registered charity and an all-volunteer organization. Donations are gladly accepted. The VNC was formed in 2010 and after this year’s trip will have sent 156 vets to Washington DC. Honor flight trips are open to WWII, Korean and Vietnam Veterans but the oldest generally are taken first. For information on this event please contact the Veterans Network Committee at (847) 875-0159 or visit the website and Facebook pages veteransnetworkcommittee.com
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