SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. – Honor is a word ingrained into the ethos of men and women who have ever served in the U.S. military. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that when Airmen of the 158th Fighter Wing learned that Vermont’s oldest living veteran, 106-year-old Lenny Roberge, wanted to visit the Vermont Air National Guard, they were excited and started making plans for his visit.
“To be able to show Lenny around our base and let him experience seeing the F-35 up close was going to be really cool,” said Master Sgt. Chad Cosgrove, executive administrative assistant for the 158th Fighter Wing. “It was going to be an honor to meet Lenny, and we were all really looking forward to connecting with him.”
Unfortunately, due to a spike of COVID-19 cases, it was not to be. So the Airmen of the 158th Fighter Wing pondered what to do instead.
“All of us at the fighter wing staff felt that it was really important to honor Roberge,” said Maj. Frank King, executive officer of the 158th Fighter Wing. “We decided that what better way to ring in the New Year than to present him with a flag flown in an F-35 on a combat training sortie over the mountains of Vermont and New York.”
Abiding by COVID-19 protocol, on Dec. 22, Col. Adam Rice, vice wing commander of the 158th Fighter Wing, and three other Airmen were finally able to honor Roberge in a small ceremony on the front porch of his nursing home in South Burlington. They presented him with a flag that flew in the F-35A Lightning II.
“It feels like I’m at home. I couldn’t have a better home,” said Roberge. “Thank you!”
In appreciation, Roberge honored the Airmen of the wing by handing out fresh apple pie he baked earlier in the day.
“Thank you for your service to our country,” said Rice while Roberge rendered him a final salute. “We wish you all the best in the new year.”
So happy New Year to Mr. Lenny Roberge, Vermont’s oldest World War II veteran, who has now lived through two worldwide pandemics. You are an inspiration to us all.