National News

WWII hero floored at compassion of strangers who carried him to wife's grave

Posted May 8, 2018 11:25 a.m. EDT

— As a nation, we owe former B-24 pilot George Boone the world, but the 96-year-old is the one expressing gratitude for how a couple of strangers treated him.

Boone, who is an Asheville resident, was one of several heroes aboard a recent Blue Ridge Honor Flight. The program flies vets from the mountains and Upstate South Carolina to Washington, D.C., to see their memorials.

A touching moment involving Boone at Arlington National Cemetery drew attention around the world last week when the World War II veteran got help from strangers to see his late wife's grave.

"I did not get a chance to adequately say thank you," Boone said, still stunned by the show of respect by a man and woman he had never met.

What the man and woman did for him was straight out of a dramatic movie scene.

"I had given up all hope of seeing her," Boone said, referring to the grave of his late wife Alma Anne at Arlington.

"A memory that is forever embedded in my mind," said son Jon, who saw the compassion unfold.

Boone desperately wanted to visit Anne's grave before he died. They were married 56 years, and one day he will be buried at the cemetery right next to her.

That day, hundreds of yards away from where she was laid to rest, Boone realized he couldn't walk that far.

"We had forgotten the wheelchair, and we kind of looked at each other helplessly," he recalled.

He was not helpless for long. A cemetery employee and an Honor Flight volunteer lifted him up and took him to the grave.

Jon took photos to capture the kindness.

"It's very touching, but it's a moment," Jon said. "You know you're in a moment."

They spent a few precious moments at the grave site.

"Dad said a few remembrances about mom and just talked about what a wonderful woman she had been," Jon recalled.

Boone said he met his future wife at a cocktail party a lifetime ago.

"I said, 'That's the girl I want to talk to,' and it turned out to be Anne and who I subsequently married," he recalled.

After paying their respects, the cemetery worker stepped up again.

"Asked me, 'It would be my privilege to carry him back,'" Jon said. "And I was just stunned."

"Picked me up as if I weighed 10 pounds!" Boone said. "Swung me around on his back and off we went, carrying me back to the car, and I just could not be more appreciative of that."

Carrying a 175-pound national treasure was that man's honor. The worker wants to remain anonymous and declined interview requests.

"That's when you realize, 'Whoa this has kicked it up to another level,'" Jon said of that surreal moment. "And the gentleman said, 'I can't tell you how privileged I am to be here and that you're allowing me to hold you at this moment.'"

No one involved will forget that image.

"I was tearing up, and dad looked up at me and said, 'Wow, I guess I really did do something,'" Jon recalled his dad saying with heroic humility. "Which is their generation."

The family will never forget the great gesture for the greatest generation.