Korean War vet gets a chance to take flight

VETERAN’S WISH — Julius Dziewatkoski, a Korean War veteran from Wintersville who now resides in the Belmont Country Club Rehabilitation Center, was strapped in for his wish Tuesday morning — one more airplane ride. His pilot, Phil Bender of Pier Aviation, works in the background as he prepares the plane for flight from the Jefferson County Air Park. -- Paul Giannamore

WINTERSVILLE — Julius Dziewatkoski didn’t know why the staff at the Belmont Country Club Rehabilitation Campus got him dressed and took him for a ride Tuesday morning until he met Phil Bender and a single-engine Cessna Skylane at the Jefferson County Air Park.

Staff at the nursing home said Dziewatkoski spoke often about flying during the Korean War and how he wished he could fly just one more time. The staff found Bender of Pier Aviation, who donated his time and the plane for the ride. The staff arranged the ride, first calling Wheeling-Ohio County Airport and eventually being referred to Bender.

His son, Julius, said his father spoke often of his experiences during the Korean War. The elder Dziewatkoski had gone through flight school and wanted to become a fighter pilot on the then-new F-86 Saber jets, but his eyesight was 20-40 in one eye, enough in those days to disqualify him. He remained in the Air Force, laying lines for communication with troops in hostile conditions, riding out typhoons and dealing with heavy mud and sniper fire. As part of setting up communications, he was flown from place to place around Korea.

Alishah Hardway, marketing director for the rehabilitation center, said the elder Dziewatkoski would often say, “You know, it would sure be nice to get up in the air one last time.”

Dziewatkoski said the last time he flew was his return to the United States from Korea. He said he never expected to fly again. He recalled that flight, with a stop for fuel and food in Guam and the stopping point in Hawaii.

“When I saw how those pilots lived, that was a dream job,” he said. “Most of the time in Korea, we were always on alert. You never knew what was going to happen.”

He noted the Korean War didn’t end with a truce, only a cease fire where hostilities stopped.

“I’m 87 years old. Often, I wish I was a young man again. Some of these aircraft they have now have to be dream aircraft,” he said.

What did he want from this one flight?

“To look out over the sky. Your feet are off of the ground, and you are just as close to the upper sphere as you can ever get,” he said. “It’s pretty good. It’s pretty sharp. When you’re up there, you’re in command of a lot of things.”

Bender, a corporate pilot with experience with the airlines who retired from the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s aviation division, said, “I like sharing the joy of flying. It’s kind of paying it back also, he’s a veteran, and it’s fun to be able to share with him.”

“When the nursing facility told us about it, we were so tickled. Every time I talked to Dad, this was just something that he wanted to do,” the younger Julius Dziewatkoski said.

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