It’s no surprise that retired Lt. Col. Walter J. Hushak was invited to participate at the Connecticut Veterans Parade in Hartford. After all, the 93 year old Southington resident has been marching in the parade for years. But on Sunday, Nov. 6, the World War II veteran was invited to be one of three parade marshals.
New England’s largest veterans’ parade welcomes any active, retired or honorably discharged members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including commissioned officers, warrant officers and enlisted personnel of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard or Reserves. The parade also welcomes veterans groups, patriotic commissions, local municipalities, marching bands and drill teams from colleges, high and middle schools, along with bagpipe and drum corps and fife and drum corps from across the state.
Hushak, a lifelong resident of Southington, is a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps and U.S. Air Force Reserve, and he has been a staple at the Hartford parade. Hushak served almost 30 years in the military beginning in the World War II era. This year, as the nation commemorates the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, parade officials said in a press release that it was “very fitting that a World War II veteran is honored as one of the 2016 parade marshals.”
Hushak reportedly joined the military because he always wanted to fly. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 and spent a year of flight training before serving on active duty from 1944 to 1946 as a pilot of a B-24 Liberator bomber in the 7th Air Force Saipan, Mariana Islands in the Central Pacific.
His service included missions during the battles at Iwo Jima, Pagan, and Marcus Island.
After the war, Hushak returned to Southington and worked for many years in personnel at the Peck, Stow & Wilcox Co. in Southington. He served in the Air Force Reserve for 27 years, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1972. Hushak has been a member of Army-Air Force Round Table of Cheshire for more than 20 years. For two decades, he also has helped to coordinate the annual Wings of Freedom Tour at Waterbury-Oxford Airport, a display of vintage World War II aircraft.
Today, at 93 years old, Hushak still works out at a gym three times a week and continues to preserve the World War II history by going into classrooms and speaking to school students of all ages.
“It gave me another dimension in my life and my thinking,” he said in a press release, adding that he would not trade military duty for anything in the world. “Am I better man? No. But having to make serious decisions, you just come out a different person.”
Over the past seven decades, Hushak has been involved in many local organizations and agencies. He was married to his wife, Ruth, for 40 years and they raised two sons and a daughter.
A wreath-laying ceremony will be held at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch at 11:30 a.m. There will be color guard, music, and a bugler will play taps.
The parade will step off at 12:30 p.m. near the state capitol building and proceed through downtown Hartford, rain or shine.
During the parade, volunteers will hand out “Thank You, Veterans” materials. Small American flags will be available at no cost while supplies last at the parade information booth on Atheneum Square on Main Street.
The parade is organized by a nonprofit collaboration of veterans’ groups, corporations, local municipalities, businesses and civic organizations. Many of the members of the Parade Planning Committee have been involved in the parade since its inception in the year 2000. The Connecticut National Guard assists with the management of parade logistics, and the City of Hartford hosts the event.