Local WWII veteran survived Bataan death march - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Local WWII veteran survived Bataan death march, headed to DC Saturday


By Jamie Hersch - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

CAMBRIDGE (WKOW) -- On Saturday, 105 local World War II veterans will fly to Washington, D.C. for the Badger Honor Flight.

It is a one-day trip meant to show veterans the memorials built in their honor.

Howie Heiliger of Cambridge is among the veterans going on Saturday. A purple heart recipient, Howie says he's a survivor.

"You know, life is always filled with unexpected things. It's always been that way for me. I didn't ever expect to be taken prisoner by the Japanese but it happened and I survived," said Howie.

Howie was 20 years old when he joined the Marines in 1940. He wanted to see the world and fight for his country.

Stationed in China and the Philippines, he fought for just six months before he was captured along with 75,000 others and forced to walk for days in what became known as the Bataan Death March.

Howie spent the next three and half years as a prisoner of war.

"It was a miserable life those three years and four months that they had me tied up there. You just went from day to day, that's all there was to it. And I think I just had the backbone to say 'Well, I'm gonna make it,' and I did.

"It's memories that you don't like to remember. That's why people have asked me before to speak in front of an audience and it's just too terrible. I just never could talk about it," said Howie.

More than 65 years later, Howie is ready to talk, especially to other veterans he will join on the badger honor flight.

"I've been on Cloud 9 for six weeks! I've been ready to go," said Howie.

He's ready to see the memorials he's only read about, ready to be honored for the years he sacrificed for our country and ready to share the laughs, the memories and the tears with other men and women just like him.

"The survivors are here. We're getting short but we're hanging around. I don't think there's a better thing. This is one of the better things that has ever happened in my lifetime," said Howie.

27 News' Jamie Hersch and Teresa Mackin will join the veterans on Saturday's honor flight. They will have coverage beginning Saturday night.

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