CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Two World War II veterans were recognized during a special ceremony Saturday, Aug. 19, at the Seminole Valley Farm Museum.
Mike Bisek, 100, of Cedar Rapids, and Gordon Emmons, 97, of Marion, were presented with service pins at the museum’s annual World War II Remembered event.
Twenty years ago, it wasn’t unusual to see World War II veterans at re-enactment events, said Dave Pasbrig, a WWII Allied Reenactor who presented the pins to the two veterans.
“Now, it’s a rarity to have one, much less two,” Pasbrig said. “These two gentlemen are our rock stars. We’re out here pretending, but they did it for real.”
Richard Pohorsky, a friend of Bisek, presented the centenarian with a proclamation from Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell, citing his military service and service to the community for his 100th birthday earlier this year.
“Whereas, Michael F. Bisek performed meritorious service to his community and country during World War II. Forced to bail out in enemy occupied territory, Mr. Bisek
evaded capture with the aid of the French resistance fighters until he was able to
rejoin Allied forces.; and Whereas, for Michael F. Bisek’s volunteer service and lifelong devotion to the Cedar Rapids community. Mr. Bisek has volunteered numerous hours in support of Cedar Rapids
youthful athletes.; and Whereas, on the occasion of Michael F. Bisek’s 100th birthday, the City of Cedar Rapids wishes to express the appreciation of its grateful citizens for a long and full life of service to his fellow citizens,” the proclamation read, in part.
Mike Bisek, left, is shown with the proclamation from the city of Cedar Rapids.
Bisek, a U.S. Army Air Corps photographer/gunner, and fellow crewmates bailed out over Nazi-occupied France after their B-24 bomber was hit by enemy fire during their final bombing mission on railroad yards in Munich, Germany.
For weeks, with aid from the French Maquis resistance, they survived with little food or proper gear in the Alps, helping the French Underground evacuate a hospital and evading German troops.
As U.S. forces made their way to liberate the region in August 1944, Bisek was shot in the leg — by friendly fire.
Read more of Bisek’s story.
Emmons served from 1944-1945 in the U.S. Navy.
“I just got out of high school and they grabbed me,” he said, citing his service spent in the Atlantic “chasing German subs,” Pacific “chasing Japanese subs” and Gulf of Mexico, where he experienced the “roughest water I’ve ever been in” on the small ship, the USS PCS-1425.
Gordon Emmons and driver Dave Ruffcorn sit in Ruffcorn’s restored 1942 GPW.
His memories were especially poignant, as he was stationed six months in Maui, Hawaii, where recent wildfires have devastated the island.
Emmons and his wife, Joyce, have been married 76 years, and while she didn’t attend the ceremony, due to the hot weather, he reminisced on how the two met.
A friend in boot camp in Independence, Mo., had a photo of Joyce in his wallet, but said she was a neighbor and he wasn’t dating her.
Emmons and his future wife started corresponding during the war, and eventually “I finally convinced her to see me,” he said.
The two married and lived in Missouri for a time before Emmons took over his late father’s gasoline business in Iowa.
Lou Stepanek, a longtime friend of Bisek’s, also attended the ceremony, joking that he first saw Bisek on a photo on the post office wall, then adding that Bisek was deserving of the honors.
“That was just my duty,” Bisek said.
World War II Remembered continues from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023, at the Seminole Valley Farm Museum, 1400 Seminole Valley Rd. NE.
See photos from a past WWII Remembered and more from the 2023 event, below: